Net Neutrality Repeal Begins As Americans Say the Internet Should Be Accessible to All

Net neutrality officially ends today, April 23. In December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality protections designed to ensure a “free and open” internet.

Efforts to abolish net neutrality were widely backed by the telecommunications industry, but criticized by both the tech industry and customer advocacy groups. In theory, the principle was put in place to keep large internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon from arbitrarily slowing down user connections. One common concern is ISPs blocking or slowing down user’s access to competing services or offering preferential treatment to certain companies.

Nonprofits like NYC Mesh have begun installing antennas all over New York City to offer New Yorkers a “community-owned” wireless network with unfettered access to the internet.

Supporters of the net-neutrality repeal, however, argue that the internet isn’t neutral now and increasing competition among ISPs will aid in keeping telecom giants from further monopolizing the internet bandwidth market. Although the idea of AT&T subjectively blocking certain types of traffic is troubling, proponents insist creating a vibrant competitive market will ultimately stop those kinds of bad practices.

Nonetheless, the FCC’s decision has triggered legal challenges in several states and a coalition of 22 state attorneys general have already filed a lawsuit to stop the FCC’s vote. Oregon state and Washington have enacted net neutrality laws and governors in about four states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Vermont — have signed executive orders sustaining the principle.

Recently, The Harris Poll found that while over 9 in 10 Americans (92%) say the internet should be accessible to everyone, Americans are largely split on the basic principles of net neutrality. Just over half (55%) say big companies should be able to pay for their content to load faster for certain users.