CBS Local — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it plans to roll back regulations on internet service providers that govern how major companies distribute online access. The dismantling of net neutrality rules is seen as a major shift from Obama-era policies designed to treat all websites and content equally.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement released Tuesday. “Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

Chairman Pai had said earlier this year that the 2015 net neutrality rules were a burden to businesses and innovation. Mr. Pai added that the FCC was seeking to return to Clinton-era policies that governed internet providers with a light touch and had “proven to be successful.”

What will the changes to net neutrality mean for internet users?

Critics of the FCC’s plan say the rollback may mean higher prices and drastic service changes as providers adjust their business practices. Northeastern’s College of Computer and Information Science’s David Choffnes warns that internet providers may be motivated to obstruct their competition from delivering content to customers.

“Network providers have business incentives to make their media products more desirable than their competitors, like Netflix or YouTube,” the assistant professor said, via CBS News. “One way to do that is to slow down or block Netflix or YouTube, making them effectively unwatchable.”

“An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with,” argues advocacy group Free Press.

Experts add that if an ISP decides to charge companies more to use their bandwidth, video streaming services like Netflix will likely have to shift that cost to customers. That will make it more expensive for the public to stream their favorite programs.

Mr. Pai is arguing that the rollback will actually spur more competition in the ISP industry as companies become motivated to offer more choice in internet speeds and service packages to their users.


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