What is the status of net neutrality under Trump?

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Answered by: MatthewD, An Expert in the Consumer Awareness Category
As soon as Donald Trump was elected, net neutrality advocates began tensely watching for signs from the world’s most powerful man that he will either support or hurt their cause. What can we expect for net neutrality under Trump?

What Is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the belief that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all the data that flows through their networks equally. Whether you’re using their services to stream videos, get work done, or follow the news, ISPs should neither favor nor throttle your connection, net neutrality advocates say.

Advocates claim net neutrality isn’t just about stuttering Netflix streams. It threatens to marginalize minority voices and violates the principle of freedom of speech, they say.

Net Neutrality Before Trump

In 2015, net neutrality supporters scored a major victory when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — under President Obama — reclassified ISPs as public utilities, subject to much more strict government regulation than they had been before. Among the FCC’s new rules were provisions barring ISPs from selectively slowing data speeds based on content.

Perhaps ominously, for net neutrality advocates, the FCC commissioners voted in the rules along party lines: three Democrats against two Republicans.

Net Neutrality After Trump

Ajit Pai, one of the Republican FCC commissioners who voted against the 2015 rule changes, became chairman under Trump. Earlier this year, he quickly moved to undo the Obama-era regulations.

In May the FCC commissioners — again along party lines — voted to kick off the process to repeal the utility-like status of broadband providers. Pai and his supporters contend that the regulations could impede competition and innovation among ISPs.

The repeal process began with a public commenting period this summer. It could move to a final vote later this year.

Where Does Trump Stand?

Donald Trump’s White House expressed support for Pai’s efforts in a statement this July. A spokesperson for Trump said the previous administration “went about this the wrong way.” This is the clearest statement made so far about net neutrality under Trump.

Where Do the ISPs Stand?

Broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast were critical of the 2015 FCC ruling (to the point of taking the FCC to court) and have hailed the move toward a rollback. But at the same time, most of them publically support net neutrality.

As the New York Times points out, Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T all participated in July’s Day of Action (organized by content providers like Netflix and Amazon) protesting the FCC’s proposed changes. This seems to indicate that the big ISPs feel the pressure from customers to maintain open network, but chafe at the idea of government regulation.

What Does This Mean for You?

Internet users have yet to see any regulatory changes to their broadband service under the Trump administration. But if the FCC successfully rollbacks its rules — and it seems likely it will — net neutrality advocates say consumers might see:

--ISPs favoring their own content over that of competitors.

--Rising costs to access internet “fast lanes” for specific types of content.

--Restrictions on the devices you can use to access online content.

In a Consumer Reports poll, 67 percent of Americans said ISPs shouldn’t dictate the content they access. But while most consumers wouldn’t welcome these developments, so far Donald Trump has done little to prevent them.

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