Repeal of Obama-era protections for consumers came into effect Monday
In the United States, the ability to watch and use favourite apps and services could start to change — though not right away — with the official demise Monday of Obama-era internet protections.
Any changes are likely to happen slowly, as companies assess how much consumers will tolerate.
The repeal of “net neutrality” took effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favouring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix.
Internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast had to treat all traffic equally. They couldn’t slow down or block websites and apps of their choosing. Nor could they charge Netflix and other video services extra to reach viewers more smoothly. The rules also barred a broadband provider from, say, slowing down Amazon’s shopping site to extract business concessions.
Now all that is legal, as long as companies post their policies online.
The change comes as broadband and cellphone providers expand their efforts to deliver video and other content to consumers.
Battle not entirely over
With net neutrality rules gone, AT&T and Verizon can give priority to their own movies and TV shows, while hurting rivals such as Amazon, YouTube and startups yet to be born.
The battle isn’t entirely over, though. Some states are moving to restore net neutrality, and lawsuits are pending. Also, the U.S. Senate voted to save net neutrality, though that effort isn’t likely to become law.
For now, broadband providers insist they won’t do anything that would harm the “internet experience” for consumers. Most currently have service terms that specify they won’t give preferential treatment to certain websites and services, including their own.