Your ability to watch and use your favorite apps and services could start to change — though not right away — following the official demise Monday of Obama-era internet protections. Any changes are likely to happen slowly, as companies assess how much consumers will tolerate.
The repeal of “net neutrality” took effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favoring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix. Internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast had to treat all traffic equally. The rules also barred a broadband provider from, say, slowing down Amazon’s shopping site to extract business concessions.
All that is legal as long as companies post their policies online. The change comes as broadband and cellphone providers expand their efforts to deliver video and other content to consumers. With net neutrality rules gone, AT&T and Verizon can give priority to their own movies and TV shows, while hurting rivals such as Amazon, YouTube and startups yet to be born.
Most currently have service terms that specify they won’t give preferential treatment to certain websites and services, including their own. However, companies are likely to drop these self-imposed restrictions; they will just wait until people aren’t paying a lot of attention, said Marc Martin, a former FCC staffer who is now chairman of communications practice at the law firm Perkins Coie. Any changes now, while the spotlight is on net neutrality, could lead to a public relations backlash.