News & Press: Public Policy

Rollback of Net Neutrality Regulations Poses Multiple Concerns

Wednesday, December 20, 2017  
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Net Neutrality Changes Could Affect You, Your Property and Your Residents

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reversed net neutrality regulations that had been implemented in 2015 during the Obama administration.

Net neutrality regulations prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast or AT&T from throttling internet speeds or prohibiting access to websites or services. They also restricted the use of internet “fast lanes” by reclassifying ISPs as common carriers, which meant that since 2015 the internet has been regulated like utilities such as gas, telephone and water. Under the rules, internet service providers are required to treat all online content the same. They cannot deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps, nor can they put their own content at an advantage over rivals.

With the internet being increasingly central to our lives, changes to how it will be regulated has far-reaching implications in terms of potentially widening the “digital divide” (the technology gap between the rich and poor) and limiting access to remote health monitoring and other services. Affordable housing for low- and moderate-income older adults and families may also be impacted by slow connection speeds at their ISP's discretion, or they may have to pay more for faster internet speeds.

The repeal could change how customers are billed for services, both for good and bad. Cell phone and other tech providers could make it cheaper for their customers to stream the cell phone provider’s specific content, while possibly charging more for accessing competitors’ content. Without net neutrality, internet providers may pursue these types of offers more aggressively. This could be viewed as a positive by consumers looking to save money on their streaming media but also a negative if consumers want freedom of choice in accessing their internet content.

This repeal could also negatively impact rural areas. Many rural broadband customers have few options when it comes to choosing an ISP, and with the end of net neutrality, it will further harm competition in rural areas. Already, broadband prices are higher where monopolies exist, and without net neutrality, those ISP providers already in place would have yet another tool with which to leverage their advantage without fear of losing customers.

While the repeal of these regulations appears to be a done deal, technology advocates and states’ attorneys general are already gearing up to challenge the action in the courts. Some have speculated that the issue could also be decided by legislation in Congress.