Today’s Net Neutrality Vote: Sorting Truth From Hype

As you’ve likely heard, net neutrality rules have passed the FCC. The ISPs aren’t happy about it, but almost everyone else is. The question now becomes… what happens next?

The Decision

The FCC’s rules, passed today, essentially reclassify broadband service and implement new rules under that classification. Interestingly, it also adds net neutrality to wireless networks, which wasn’t the case before. It’s likely Verizon, Comcast, and the rest will attempt to appeal the FCC’s ruling, but unlike the last time, it seems fairly likely this will stick. The previous set of net neutrality rules passed by the FCC were overturned specifically because the FCC hadn’t classified broadband providers as “common carriers.”

Does This Mean The Government Can Regulate Or Tax The Internet?

Of note: The same court decision that overturned the FCC’s net neutrality rules actually established that the government had regulatory authority over broadband. So, no. This decision is not the FCC giving itself new powers. It’s just using the powers it already had.

It also doesn’t give the government any sort of control over the content of the internet unless said content is breaking another law. The First Amendment is still in full effect on the internet. Essentially, the only real impact is on ISPs, who will just have to settle for their current boatloads of money rather than making more boatloads of money.

Similarly, any claims that this will somehow drive up taxes is an… interesting belief. The FCC has no tax authority, and Congress is the government body ensuring that your internet isn’t taxed on the federal level. Title II classification doesn’t appear to change the law materially, and not taxing the internet is so popular that it’s one of the few things the president and Congress agree on. It’s true that things may change on the state level, but taxing the internet is not popular, and net neutrality is unlikely to make it so.

Basically, the only thing that changes is that your ISP can’t charge you for internet access and then turn around and charge websites for better access to you. That’s pretty much it.

What Does This Mean For Me?

Basically, your internet won’t become worse. But it won’t necessarily become better, either.

The big problem of net neutrality was that it was inevitably going to make your internet use more expensive. While websites were never going to be throttled (well, more than they already are, anyway), they would have been under pressure to buy faster access because your average internet user has the attention span of a caffeinated weasel.

That said, there’s nothing in these rules that forces ISPs to upgrade their infrastructure or give you better speed. That’s outside the scope of the regulation at hand anyway. You can at least take solace that, for now, a floor has been laid for your internet service that it can’t drop below.