The internet first went live back in 1991. With Net Neutrality rules only coming into place in 2015, there were a good 24 years where the internet was the Wild West. Did net neutrality really have that much of an effect? With the FCC voting to repeal net neutrality rules, we’re about to find out first hand.

For those who have been asleep for the last three years, net neutrality is the regulation, put in place by the Obama administration, which mandates that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all internet content equally – whether that’s a personal email, a bank transfer, or your favorite adult content. It prevents ISPs from being able to boost, block, or throttle data based on the content or creator of that content.

Simply put, it ensures, through legally enforced rules, that even the worst of the worst of blogs can be accessed in the same manner as the more superior quality content.

Those who may be affected by the dismantling of net neutrality include the US’s biggest internet service providers, as well as content providers like Google and Facebook. For the ISP’s it could mean more revenue from additional broadband investments. Though, for the content providers, it may mean heavy negotiations with the ISPs to keep their content flowing to their consumers.

Those against the repeal say it would make it harder for start-ups that would need to struggle in order to compete with the cash-flow of larger companies. As for the consumer, it’s hard to say for sure. It could mean having to pay for premium content, however, in a consumer-driven market, it is up to the consumer what they will tolerate from their ISP, right?

Why does the FCC want to ditch Net Neutrality?

President Donald J Trump has made no secret of his dislike for net neutrality.

In 2004 he described the proposed regulations as a “power grab” and likened it to the Fairness Doctrine, which regulated journalism between 1949 and 1987 in relation to controversial topics.

Once in office, President Trump appointed Republican Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC and Mr. Pai soon sought to put an end to the regulations, arguing that the heavy-handed 2015 rules stifled competition and innovation amongst ISPs. He has been quoted as saying that “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia.”

It seems that others in the FCC agree with Mr. Pai, voting 3-2 to repeal the rules.

The good and the bad of a somewhat unregulated internet

It’s unlikely that consumers will see immediate changes as a result of the rule change, the concern is for smaller start-ups and whether they will be able to compete. ISPs have stated that they will not block or throttle against legal content, but they may introduce paid prioritization schemes. For small business budgets, this is worrying news.

The FCC will still require ISPs to disclose their traffic information to maintain transparency, although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will now be responsible for the regulation of the internet, assessing violations after the fact.

It seems that it's now in the hands of the consumer to hold the ISPs accountable for any breach of practice. We use to call this “People Power”.

Repealing net neutrality simply puts the control back into the hands of the consumer. It will mean that, as a consumer, you have a responsibility to enforce a standard.

[Queue patriotic music] Now that the control is out of the hands of content creators such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google, who have for years attempted to tell us what and how to think, it’s up to the consumer to speak out with our wallets and ensure a better internet for our children! [Stadium applause] Thank you.