Net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal internet access formally are set to expire on Monday after a lengthy battle. But as the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the rules takes effect, states are pushing their own laws to protect their version of a free and open internet.
Two states, Oregon and Washington, have passed net neutrality laws and 29 states are considering legislation, which could lead to new legal battles over internet laws. California could be next. Obama-era federal regulations prevented internet providers from slowing, blocking, or charging websites special fees to get their content in front of users. The idea was that all internet traffic should be treated equally by broadband providers.
Here's how the end of net neutrality could impact your business.
One possibility is that large companies like Verizon and Comcast could pay for internet fast lanes, while smaller businesses that couldn't afford to pay a premium would see slower service on their sites.
A less efficient gig economy
Freelance workers and members of the gig economy who rely on the internet to do their jobs could also suffer without access to the fastest service, causing problems for any business that relies on freelancers for outsourced work.
The debate around net neutrality has been going on for years, but it gained massive attention when FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced in April 2017 that he would reverse the Title II classification of internet service providers, meaning large broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast could give special treatment to certain online content. Silicon Valley leaders and investors have been fighting for the rules ever since.
The California State Senate passed a net neutrality bill on Wednesday. It will head to the State Assembly, where hearings will begin in June and must be voted on by the end of August. What's more, five Democratic governors have issued executive orders barring their states from doing business with a broadband firm that violates the principals of net neutrality.
But this isn't a solution for some supporters. Congress could step in if several states pass their own legislation, and given the Republican majority, advocates for net neutrality are skeptical about the outcome.
"With this Congress and this president, my confidence level is not high," California state senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat, told The Hill. "I would love to have one uniform, robust federal standard protecting net neutrality, but given that the FCC has left a void, the states have to fill it."