Death of net neutrality in America: FCC votes for internet fast and slow lanes

19 May 2017

Image: Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

Net neutrality edges one step closer to disappearing as FCC votes two-to-one to repeal Obama-era internet rules.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken a deeply unpopular decision to roll back on internet reforms guaranteeing net neutrality that were made during the Obama era.

Yesterday (18 May 2017), the FCC voted two-to-one to advance a Trump administration plan to reverse the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality order.

FCC chairperson Ajit Pai wants the commission to repeal the rules that reclassified internet service providers (ISPs) as utility companies.

The public will have until mid-August to offer comments before the FCC votes on a final plan.

Scrapping net neutrality would, in effect, turn telecoms firms and ISPs into cyber gatekeepers that can throttle services such as streaming, search and social media if financial agreements aren’t in place.

Net neutrality is the hot potato of our digital times

The whole net neutrality debate came about because telecoms players felt aggrieved that they were not sharing in the massive revenue gains being made online by players such as Facebook, Netflix and Google. Their reasoning is that they built the infrastructure that delivers these services.

However, by rolling back on net neutrality, consumers in the US may soon discover that some of their favourite online services may not load as quickly as others, depending on financial arrangements that are in place.

The abolition of net neutrality protections will create internet fast lanes and slow lanes in America.

In Europe, net neutrality is being upheld across the EU and last year, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, BEREC, published strict new rules governing net neutrality and specific internet fast and slow lanes for cloud services and apps.

Public tells Pai to

Last week, US television comedian and commentator John Oliver crashed FCC servers by urging viewers to flood the FCC website with comments supporting an open internet via a redirect to the FCC policy page at

The Last Week Tonight presenter called Pai out on his plan to allow telecoms giants such as AT&T and Verizon to favour their own services and create internet fast lanes for the highest bidders.

Oliver rubbished Pai’s suggestion that ISPs could simply “promise” not to obstruct or slow consumer access to websites, saying it “would make net neutrality as binding as a proposal on The Bachelor”.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years