USA net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms

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The repeal of "net neutrality" takes effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from slowing down or blocking sites of their choosing or charging more for higher speeds.

Net Neutrality protections prohibited internet providers from favoring or blocking access to particular products or websites. Ahead of the December 14 commission vote that ended those Obama-era net neutrality regulations, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called those same rules a " heavy-handed, utility-style.mistake" and pledged to stop the federal government from "micromanaging" the internet by introducing a new set of "internet freedom" regulations. "I would love to have one uniform, robust federal standard protecting net neutrality, but given that the FCC has left a void, the states have to fill it". His order, touted as promoting investment and broadband deployment, loosens the FCC's regulation of ISPs, and instead gives the Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction to enforce violations. A big, sudden shift would piss off a lot of people, including politicians, and perhaps bolster the ongoing effort to get net neutrality back.

"Poll after poll after poll after poll shows large majorities of Republican voters in opposition to the FCC's repeal", Karr pointed out.

Last month, the Senate passed a measure to preserve the net neutrality rules. It may also make it harder for the next generation of online services to compete if they have to pay up to be placed in a so-called internet fast lane. Under the new guidelines, ISPs can block, throttle, or prioritize internet content as much as they like, as long as they clearly disclose to customers that that's what they're doing. As we pointed out at the time of the Senate vote, the CRA now has to pass the House where the Democrats that support the Act are greatly outnumbered.

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"We'll see what happens after the [midterm] election", Lewis says. "Under that approach, the Internet was open and free", he wrote. In 2015, the FCC approved a set of regulations on ISPs.

The U.S. open internet rules expired on Monday, handing sweeping new powers to internet providers to block, throttle or offer paid "fast lanes" for web traffic, but a court battle remains ahead. Several states, including New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and California, have gone so far as to push legislation to enforce the principles of net neutrality within their borders.

More than 20 states have filed a lawsuit to stop the net neutrality repeal.

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