The Federal Communications Commission voted last week to dismantle so-called net neutrality rules set under the Obama-era Open Internet Order. The 2015 order prevented Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking certain websites or charging more for certain content.
What does that mean for consumers?
“The sky isn’t falling,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said right before Thursday’s vote. "Consumers will remain protected, and the internet will continue to thrive.”
But net neutrality advocates disagree.
“In the long run, I think the consumers will end up paying,” said Vishal Misra, a computer science professor at Columbia University.
In the immediate future, Misra predicts, it will be up to content providers to do the paying so that their websites are not slowed down or blocked altogether. For heavyweights like YouTube and Netflix, that may not be a problem. But it could be impossible for smaller, independent websites.
“We have no idea what's going to happen now [and] whether or not this is going to essentially charge us out of existence,” said Lucy Flores of the digital-first media platform MiTú. “We serve primarily Latino and person of color millennial audiences and so, for us, [the FCC decision] is really concerning.”
The website has relied on YouTube and other social media platforms to distribute its content.
“There literally is nothing stopping any of [ISPs] now from saying, ‘Well, YouTube ... we're going to charge you extra now because you're producing [a certain amount of] videos or longer content.’ And … they may very well pass along those charges to us,” Flores said.