The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that it will be voting December 14 on a plan proposed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai which intends to tear down the groundbreaking Open Internet regulations from 2015—regulations which famously ensured equal access to the Internet for all.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast continue to argue FCC regulations on Internet equality put them at a disadvantage in comparison to Internet services which regularly gather user data, such as Netflix and Google. Other Internet-based companies and services are not subject to FCC rules but are overseen instead by the Federal Trade Commission.
Under the proposed plan the FCC would instead require ISPs to disclose exactly what they intend to do—whether it be separating specific sites into higher payment tiers, or allowing faster access to specific services. The FCC is composed of five members, of which Republicans hold a 2-3 majority. As a result, the December 14th vote is expected to pass, but not without legal battles to follow. In fact, the Open Internet rules of 2015 are the only net neutrality rules to be fully upheld in court.
Advocates of free speech and Open Internet initiatives have clapped back sharply at the proposed plan. Many fear the end of net neutrality will open the floodgates to allow ISPs to restrict access or throttle speeds for sites or users who haven’t paid them a premium. Internet Association CEO and President Michael Beckerman said of the proposal,
“Chairman Pai’s proposal, if implemented, represents the end of net neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans who support the 2015 Open Internet Order. This proposal undoes nearly two decades of bipartisan agreement on baseline net neutrality principles that protect Americans’ ability to access the entire internet.”
Before the 2015 Open Internet Order was passed and upheld in court, Netflix experienced heavy throttling of speeds for users streaming movies thanks to standoffs with ISPs surrounding interconnections of internet backbones. The 2015 rules were a huge victory for Netflix because they also prevented ISPs from charging extra interconnect fees.
While Netflix is now powerful enough to simply pay off ISPs who threaten their quality of service, many fear similar outcomes for smaller businesses who can’t afford to pay premiums.
WP Engine has long supported a free and open Internet, and we believe in the driving principles of net neutrality. As a Digital Experience platform, WP Engine believes in helping our customers win online through agility, performance, intelligence, and integration. Countless companies have been built from the ground up by harnessing the performance benefits of WP Engine’s platform coupled with the power of WordPress. At WP Engine we believe in the opportunities and innovations the open-source nature of WordPress has afforded businesses of all sizes.
Without net neutrality, the landscape for online businesses would forever be altered. With these principles in mind, we encourage those who possess similar sentiments to reach out to their representatives from Congress. While individuals may not have the ability to stop the FCC from enacting the proposed changes, Congress still can. To show your support of net neutrality, head to BattleForTheNet and make your voice heard.