by Libby Watson
New FCC chair Ajit Pai has been clear that he intends to take a “weed whacker” to net neutrality regulations, but he’s been very reluctant to open up about how exactly he’s going to go about slicing them to bits. Last week, several outlets reported that Pai is finally gearing up for the fight, but no matter how badly Mr. Weed Whacker wants to dismantle net neutrality, he’s got quite a battle ahead of him.
What is net neutrality, again?
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should provide equal access to all lawful content on the internet, meaning no blocking sites and no speeding up or slowing down traffic to certain sites depending on whether they’re a competitor or not, for example. That isn’t just an abstract threat: Comcast really did slow down traffic to Netflix a few years ago until Netflix paid the company to restore full speeds. Unsurprisingly, rules protecting net neutrality have been opposed by internet service providers (ISPs) and their trade groups, and supported by websites like Netflix and Google and their trade groups. Generally, ISPs have argued net neutrality rules “stifle innovation” and force them to increase costs. Net neutrality’s supporters, meanwhile, argue that net neutrality is necessary to preserve the open and democratic character of the internet, and warn that without strong net neutrality rules, “ISPs can prevent users from visiting some websites,” or “even redirect users from one website to a competing website.”