One Year After Death of Net Neutrality, the Internet Still Works

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June 11, 2019

On the one year anniversary of the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, the internet and our access to it has not changed all that much, to the surprise of some.

Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, issued the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took effect on June 11, 2018. The order rolled back regulations which mandated that internet service providers treat all internet data equally, not varying internet speeds for different sites.

Chairman Pai's chief justification for repealing net neutrality was his belief that the regulations hindered the economic freedom of internet companies. In explaining his position, Pai said, "my concern is that, by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example."

Opposition to Pai's plan to repeal net neutrality, particularly from the left, was massive and fervent. Concerned members of the public along with politicians speculated that the death of net neutrality would bring about a world in which internet costs would skyrocket, and providers would decide exactly what consumers could do online.

Democratic lawmakers despaired at Pai's repeal of the regulations. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) labeled the move an "outrageous assault on an open and fair internet." Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said the repeal "attacks freedom of speech for the millions of people who use the internet every single day."

A year after net neutrality regulations were rolled back, though, the apocalyptic ramifications predicted by many have hardly come to pass. Data plan prices have not skyrocketed. Contentious and open debates are still taking place across the internet. The typical internet user would likely be unable to point out how their experiences online have changed since the repeal took effect.

One user on Twitter laid out some of the most alarmist reactions to net neutrality's repeal in a thread, placed in stark contrast to the reality of the matter. He included tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who called the repeal an "egregious attack on democracy," an NGO that considered it an "attack on the LGBT community," and a Twitter user who believed people would have to use land lines again to communicate since providers would begin charging for sending messages online.