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What should we expect now that net neutrality is dead?

After a meeting voting to end net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai answers a question from a reporter, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Q: What should we expect now that net neutrality is dead?

A: Few things impact us as much as the internet, so it is no surprise that this has become a hot issue.

However, it is a little premature to proclaim net neutrality “dead,” as many parties — including the New York attorney general — are likely to challenge the overturning of this 2015 ruling.

Party politics

This very important issue is as much about party politics as it is about regulating the internet. As expected, the 3-2 vote went right along party lines, with Republicans voting to repeal the regulations.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that any regulation put in place by the previous administration has a bulls-eye on it from the current administration, not to mention the general Republican stance of “less regulation is better.”

Like many other complex technology issues, this is far from black and white, so stepping away from party politics is helpful in truly understanding things.

The Title II repeal

At the root of this action is the repeal of a change made in 2015, that classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a “common carrier.” That change also included a specific provision that limited an ISP’s ability to block websites and apps or offer paid prioritization of specific content.

Is the internet really neutral?

Prior to the 2015 reclassification, the internet was free to engage in many of the practices that are feared if this classification change holds up.

Anyone who has ever loved AOL was actually embracing the world that everyone now fears. AOL decided what you saw when you signed in and presented you with content that loaded quicker from their partners, instead of sending you off to the World Wide Web.

One of the many concerns is that ISPs will get to choose winners and losers by creating partnerships with large content providers — but that’s already happening.

T-Mobile was one of the first wireless carriers to allow unlimited streaming of video and music from specific partners, like YouTube, Netflix, Pandora and Spotify, without it impacting their data plan.

Is this good for consumers or is this an ISP picking winners and losers? How can a small, unknown music service startup that can’t afford to partner with a wireless carrier stand a chance?

With the growth of streaming video and our collective lack of patience for anything that constantly buffers, it’s easy to understand the concerns about the future, but even with Title II, priority access already exists.

Internet giants like Netflix, Google and Amazon have had special deals in place with large ISPs to ensure users can get to their online properties quickly that no startup could ever afford.

The past and future

Repeal advocates point to the pre-2015 internet to say that we did just fine without the restrictions under Title II, while pundits proclaim it’s “the end of the internet as we know it.”

Both sides are overstating their positions.

Since most large ISPs are now in the content business, much of what happened in the past doesn’t reflect concerns about how they’ll act in the future, but proclaiming “the internet is dead” isn’t helpful either.

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