In a statement released Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho said the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) vote to end net neutrality “does not pose a threat to the Internet.”
The FCC voted 3-to-2 along party-lines Thursday to end the Obama-era internet regulation known as net neutrality that prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T from speeding up, slowing down or blocking websites. The vote came hours after Yoho’s statement.
Yoho, whose third congressional district covers Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Putnam and Union counties, as well as part of Marion County, said he supported a vote to end Net Neutrality.
“While most agree with the concept that the flow of data on the Internet should be treated equally, I am concerned with any government overreach,” Yoho said.
What is net neutrality?
In 2015, the FCC approved net neutrality rules aimed at requiring ISPs to treat all websites and online content the same. It classified high-speed internet as a public utility.
Under the law, ISPs were prohibited from slowing down, speeding up or blocking content. They also couldn’t deliberately prioritize their content above a competitor or block websites because they disagreed with certain political views.
Companies could not pay ISPs to prioritize their content above others or pay for faster speeds known as “internet fast lanes.”
“Because the record overwhelmingly supports adopting rules and demonstrates that three specific practices invariably harm the open Internet — blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization — this order bans each of them,” the FCC wrote in the original net neutrality regulation.
Yoho told WUFT News Friday that he’s not worried about this happening because even without net neutrality, these practices are “illegal and they’ll be held accountable.”
But new FCC guidelines say ISPs can in fact do that, so long as they “publicly [provide] information concerning an ISP’s practices with respect to blocking, throttling, paid prioritization and congestion management.”
Supporters of net neutrality argue these practices and ‘fast lanes’ would allow large companies to stifle the growth of smaller and newer businesses that don’t have the resources to pay for faster speeds.
“It’s the startups that are just trying to enter the marketplace who will not have the money to pay Comcast or Time Warner or whoever to have their information be accessed,” said UF assistant professor Jasmine McNealy, who studies media and technology law. “If we’re talking about how we want to be able to protect the industry, that should be looked at.”
Although Yoho said he agreed that the flow of data should be treated equally, he didn’t agree with net neutrality.
“[Net neutrality] did nothing but stifle competition, cause inefficiency in the market and cause investment in broadband networks to decline,” Yoho said. “Additionally, more government regulation of the Internet, or any industry for that matter, usually leads to greater burdens on consumers.”
How will the internet change without net neutrality?
According to the FCC, ISPs will now have to publicly disclose if a website is slowed down, sped up or prioritized in any way, including if a company pays for it.
Broadband companies will no longer be regulated like a public utility. Instead, the Federal Trade Commission will now be responsible for enforcing any paid prioritization and any anti-trust laws that are broken, which are intended to promote “vigorous competition and protect consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices.”
“By basically giving up or repealing regulations that are in the public interest, you have the FCC kind of abdicating its responsibility,” McNealy said. “That is not a good thing for consumers.”
Yoho and other opponents of net neutrality argue the internet was doing just fine before the regulations began in 2015.
“It’s tough to honestly argue that the Internet was poorly functioning just before the FCC’s 2015 order and only became successful following that order,” Yoho said. “Everyone is worried that the new FCC decision will ruin the Internet; those fears are overblown.”