The FCC Is Ending Net Neutrality Laws, Presenting New Concerns for Brands and Tech Companies

Netflix, Vimeo tweet their disappointment

Net neutrality laws were enacted in 2015 under the Obama administration. Getty Images
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Navigating the internet is about to get a lot thornier for tech companies and marketers.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to break apart net neutrality laws, which were enacted in 2015 under the Obama administration and require internet service providers to treat web traffic equally.

Without net neutrality, service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T could either block certain websites or charge consumers to access content, granting companies the ability to basically outbid each other for access to the internet. By nixing the net neutrality rules, the FCC will no longer police high-speed internet delivery like a utility. Instead, these service providers can create “fast lanes” for companies that pay money to deliver content faster.

While opponents have pointed out that net neutrality opens up the internet and makes digital information free, the FCC’s chairman Ajit Pai argued today before the vote that killing net neutrality will help service providers differentiate their products, which in theory could give consumers more choice over their internet packages.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”

From increased ad prices to less competition, marketers and brands worry that nixing net neutrality will unleash a number of problems and headaches around standards. Joshua Lowcock, U.S. evp and chief digital officer at UM, told Adweek recently that viewability metrics—a standard over which marketers have agonized for years—could be wiped out.

“It’s going to fundamentally change the way (marketers) can approach digital media, the ROI they can extract for it and even what partners they should be looking to and considering,” he said.

In response to today’s ruling, Netflix, Vimeo and AT&T responded to the new ruling on Twitter, as did Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Amazon’s chief technology officer Werner Vogels.

To be clear, net neutrality may not be completely gone. Advocacy groups and lawmakers plan to roll out bills and lawsuits to counter the FCC’s ruling. In any case, watching how both corporations and political figures react in the coming months should be intriguing, to say the least.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.