It’s official. The internet freedom rules implemented by the Obama administration in 2015—known as net neutrality or Open Internet Order—are no longer in effect, as of June 11. It’s been a turbulent year fraught with wide-spread public outrage following the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote last December to repeal the net neutrality protections through the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.
Could these rules make a comeback? A bill looking to overturn the repeal made it through the Senate in a 52–47 vote in May; however, chances of further progress are slim, as the House and the President’s desk will prove to be substantial roadblocks. But public opinion may be enough to sway some votes. According to a recent Morning Consult survey, 60 percent of registered voters support net neutrality protections.
Additionally, several business segments are voicing their opinions, with the real estate industry being one of those most active in the fight against internet-based preferential treatment, which could lead to an unfair advantage for large real estate businesses.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has leveraged members’ voices, alongside political intelligence from their Advocacy Group, to showcase net neutrality as a significant part of their 2018 Federal Legislative and Regulatory Priorities.
“The business of real estate is increasingly conducted online, and NAR has concerns the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality could negatively impact the way consumers search for homes or how real estate is transacted,” Elizabeth Mendenhall, NAR president, told RISMedia. “With the net neutrality decision finalized today [at press time], NAR urges Congress and the FCC to work to ensure the internet remains a fair and open platform in which our 1.3 million members can freely share lawful content on the internet.”
While the federal protections are no longer in place, state legislation can still play a part in the way internet providers segment their broadband services. For example, several states, including New York, Washington and Montana, have passed state regulations that protect against payment-based favoring for content providers. And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of May, 29 states have already introduced bills that enforce net neutrality principles.
Even within the FCC, there is a lack of consensus. Commissioner to the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, recently voiced her disapproval, and her promise to keep fighting for net neutrality, in a statement.
“Last year, I voted against the FCC’s decision to roll back our net neutrality rules. Today, the FCC’s misguided repeal of net neutrality goes into effect. This is bad news for all of us who rely on an open internet for so many facets of civic and commercial life,” said Rosenworcel. “Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road. Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality, internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read and learn online.”
“If the arc of history is long, we are going to bend this toward a more just outcome. The momentum around the country—from small towns to big cities, from state houses to court houses, from governors’ executive actions to action in Congress—is proof the American people are not done fighting for an open internet. I’m proud to stand with them in that fight. We won’t stop today. It’s too important and our future depends on it,” she added.
Stay tuned to RISMedia for continuing coverage.