Net neutrality debates will hardly abate in 2018.
They now land in courts and Congress, which will weigh the merits of a recent government rollback of rules that guide internet traffic flows.
The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted Dec.14 to remove Obama-era net neutrality rules that banned internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing traffic and creating fast lanes for content.
The decision has already set off court challenge pronouncements and a legislative battle to enact permanent rules that govern the internet ecosystem, Bloomberg Law telecom reporter Tara Jeffries said in a recent Code & Conduit podcast.
Days after the vote, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) Dec. 19 introduced a bill (H.R. 4682) that would ban ISPs like AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from blocking and slowing content. Still, Democrats and tech companies want legislation that would also ban ISPs from creating internet fast lanes and upcharge users and content providers to get on them, a practice called paid prioritization.
“I think the number one issue in Congress when making a new law or changing communications law on this is can ISPs create fast lanes, and can they prioritize certain content,” Jeffries said.
Meanwhile, state attorneys general, internet startups, and public interest groups are preparing to sue to block the FCC’s rollback. Ongoing legal battles and ISPs’ assessment of regulatory uncertainties could stall dramatic changes, and users are unlikely to see dramatic price hikes or sudden web traffic slowdowns in the coming months, she said.
“They are going to have some uncertainty about what the rules are, and I think that means ISPs are going to tread carefully,” Jefferies said.
You can read more reporting about the net neutrality debate on our tech, telecom and internet blog or on Bloomberg Law. If you liked what you heard in the podcast, sign up for a free trial of Bloomberg BNA’s legal and regulatory news and content.
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