Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality protections in a totally unsurprising move that will, in all likelihood, royally screw the internet as we know it. With net neutrality gutted, browsing the internet could resemble the token ‘90s experience of waiting for a porn image to load pixel by pixel—unless you pay a premium.
During a voting session today, and after a year of dogged advocacy, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality. Experts forecast that the Republican-majority commission will remove regulations that prevented broadband internet companies from choking some websites’ speeds while fast-tracking others who shell out cash. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai today described the Obama-era mandate for open internet—which treats the internet more like a utility than a privilege—as “heavy-handed micromanagement.”
It’s an unsavory prospect for the everyday internet user, and one that thousands of websites have taken a stand against. The FCC collected millions of comments on the plan to roll back net neutrality plan this year. A reported 98.5% opposed it. After all that, it looks like the FCC does not care.
Pai openly mocked net neutrality protesters on conservative website The Daily Caller yesterday. With all the smoothness of a guy who used to be Verizon’s general council and is now openly shilling for his former employer in the capacity of governmental office, Pai reminds viewers that they will still be able to “gram their food” and buy fidget spinners post-net neutrality. We’re not stupid, buddy.
In one of today’s two dissenting opinions, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel condemned the FCC’s blatant disregard for public opinion on the issue: “It’s ugly in the cavalier disregard this agency has demonstrated to the public, the contempt it has shown for citizens who speak up, and the disdain it has for popular opinion. Unlike its predecessors this FCC has not held a single public hearing on net neutrality. There is no shortage of people who believe Washington is not listening to their concerns, their fears, and their desires. Add this agency to the list.”
For gamers, the end of net neutrality could mean that companies charge gaming networks for money. In a 2014 Kotaku article, news editor Jason Schreier warned that the costs could trickle down to consumers. Also, he asked:
“Worse, what if ISPs wind up separated into factions? What if Sony decides to cozy up with Comcast, paying them a pretty penny to ensure that PSN runs smoothly, while Microsoft won’t give? Imagine having to pick a new gaming system based on what will run more quickly on your network—this could give a whole new meaning to the term ‘console wars.’”
In the past, Pai and other anti-net neutrality congressmen argued that internet regulations will give service providers less incentive to compete and improve. Sure, that sounds like a crock of bullshit when paired with the fact that tens of millions of U.S. homes can only get internet with speeds over 25 Mbps from one company. And that cable companies have donated millions of dollars to hundreds of Republican politicians in the most recent election cycle.
Now what? There will be lawsuits. New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman said he’d sue. Advocates like the ACLU are turning to Congress for help. And finally, we bemoan the fact that things like this can happen to 320 million people and they can’t do much about it.