FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to remove the Title II classification for net neutrality, a change that dials back the FCC’s involvement in regulation of the internet. Characterized as ‘light-touch’ regulation, this could open the door to significant changes in the way end users access web content. In theory this will allow your broadband provider to slow down or speed up your access to certain websites or content. It could also mean they will charge more for access to certain content, just as the cablecos do for premium channels today.
Unfortunately, most residential internet users have access to just two broadband providers – their local exchange carrier and the local cable TV franchise holder. With a few notable exceptions (e.g. Tidewater, Pioneer, Union River and Islesboro), Maine’s cable TV providers are the only realistic choice for broadband that will deliver the bandwidth needed to keep up with today’s basic online needs. So there is little or no competition to keep cable TV honest – a monopolistic situation that means you are left with no alternative if the cable company says they are charging a premium for access to Netflix – you can’t just switch to another provider.
Oh, and the plan going forward is to regulate broadband as an Interstate Service, meaning states and the towns that authorize local cable TV franchises will have no regulatory authority. On the bright side, this might just be the thing to spur construction of more last-mile fiber to compete with cable. Only time will tell.