While legislative progress has been slow this year, almost everyone would agree that the Trump Administration – for good and for bad – is having an historic impact on the administrative state. Recent decisions surrounding net neutrality could be the biggest change yet.
Net neutrality as a policy places restrictions on internet service providers – these are the people that you purchase internet service from such as AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, or Comcast – from showing favoritism to certain websites. That means that both Netflix and JoeSchmo.com are delivered to end customers at similar speeds and quality. Scrapping net neutrality rules would mean that Facebook, for example, could pay a service provider to provide better delivery of its website than for rivals. It also opens the door for service providers to be more aggressive in owning their own content and then favoring that content.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pitched the change as consumer-friendly deregulation, pointing out that providers who offset their costs with distribution deals with content providers could end up charging less for the end product. Democrats and consumer advocates voiced concerns that the new rules could stifle fresh entrants to the content market, stifle innovation, and ultimately hurt consumers.
One of the biggest losers under the new rules in Netflix and other streaming services. Their content requires huge amounts of bandwidth which by law they previously could not be charged for. Now, service providers can demand payments from Netflix or else slow its website down to the dismay of watchers who see videos constantly “buffer.”
Alphabet, the owner of Google and YouTube, expressed disappointment at the announcement, as did Facebook. While the change was applauded by companies such as AT&T and Verizon, they were quick to say that they had no immediate plans to alter their service.
Polls continue to indicate that the majority of Americans oppose ending the policy of net neutrality. A December vote by the FCC would make its recent announcement official.