The controversial Restoring Internet Freedom act that the Federal Communications Commission voted for in December and published in the Federal Register this February will be entering into force on June 11, according to a Thursday public notice from the agency. The final version of the act will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, marking the start of a 30-day countdown until the measure is implemented and the 2015 net neutrality rules are repealed in practice.
A vote on whether to dismiss the FCC's repeal will be held by the U.S. Senate in the coming days, backed by a petition signed by 47 Democrats, two independents, and Republican Senator Susan Collins. As Republican Senator John McCain is still absent from the Congress due to health issues, net neutrality proponents are expecting a 50-49 vote in their favor. The dissenting group on Wednesday officially petitioned for a Senate vote and a ten-hour floor debate on the matter under the Congressional Review Act. Senator Ed Markey said the vote may be held as soon as next week.
Telecom giants who support the net neutrality repeal argue that the Obama-era Title II regulations inhibit investments in the industry, consequently discouraging innovation and job creation, primarily due to the fact that they classify them as utility providers, thus making them unable to sell prioritized Internet access. While the net neutrality debate has often been steered in the direction of Internet speeds, paying for faster online access has nothing to do with the issue and isn't a practice that's targeted by the existing Title II regulations. Instead, the current rulebook prevents Internet service providers from discriminating against certain websites and online systems by throttling user access to particular domains while allowing faster access to others. While several ISPs like AT&T already advocated for a federal bill meant to regulate net neutrality in a manner that avoids classifying them as utility providers, all of them are pushing against the notion of prioritized access being outlawed.
The difference between throttling certain content or allowing prioritized "fast lanes" to other websites is effectively non-existent in practice, net neutrality advocates argue, claiming that the idea of Internet content bundles akin to those from the cable industry would be achievable in practice without net neutrality, allowing ISPs to e.g. sell Internet access and charge extra for unthrottled connections to popular websites such as YouTube and Facebook, less popular websites, or both. Besides consumers, ISPs would also be able to pressure companies, i.e. website owners to pay for ensuring their content isn't throttled by their basic Internet packages of the future if the net neutrality rules are repealed, advocacy groups argue.
Nearly two dozen state attorneys general already sued to block the FCC's repeal from going into effect earlier this year, as did a number of consumer advocacy groups. Even if the upcoming net neutrality vote in the Senate is successful, President Trump would still be able to block the lawmakers from preventing the repeal. In a tweet from 2014, the now-President called net neutrality "Obama's attack on the internet" and hasn't spoken favorably of the regulation since being sworn into the highest office in the country. Numerous states including California and New York are presently pushing for their own net neutrality laws which the FCC's repeal technically forbids, albeit that provision is also expected to be challenged in the court of law as possibly unconstitutional, much like the rest of the act.