The FCC is expected to vote this week on whether to repeal Obama-era rules that made net neutrality the law of the land.
Put simply, net neutrality means that internet service providers like Verizon or AT&T, can’t prioritize one kind of content over others. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who is championing the repeal, says regulating the internet in this way stifles innovation. In fact, if the rollback is approved, the FCC would have very little to say about what happens on the Internet. That has sparked protests in Houston and Dallas, and though they haven’t exactly brought traffic to a standstill, the potential rollback because of what it could mean to users of the Internet, as well as those who build their businesses there.
Tom Merritt, host of The Daily Tech News Show, says net neutrality advocates fear that a rollback of the current rules could result in a tiered internet, where accessing popular web sites or content from particular providers could cost users more. And new companies that need access to the Internet, could be at a disadvantage.
“If paying for access became common, big companies like Google and Apple and Amazon would be able to do it,” Merritt says “but smaller companies might not even start, because it would raise prices for them to enter the market.”
Even if Internet service providers didn’t create full-fledged tiers, Merritt says, certain kinds of content might still have an advantage. One approach, called zero rating, would exempt content from certain providers from customers’ data caps. T-Mobile already does this by allwing its mobile customers to stream Netflix content that doesn’t count against a monthly cap.
Merritt says any business with an Internet presence could be affected by a change in net neutrality rules.
“If you want people to access your site, you needt the ISP (internet service provider) to connect that customer to the site,” he says “and if the ISP decides – we’re going to charge you, or we’re going to throw you in a tier where people have to get there – it’s going to slow you down.”
But Merritt says ISPs are unlikely to charge most businesses in this way because of the likely public backlash. High-bandwidth applications like industrial applications, or telemedicine are more likely to pay higher fees to get online than others.
The FCC is set to vote on the net neutrality rollback December 14. But Merritt says any rule change is likely to land in court, and that Congress will most likely get involved at some point.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.