Net neutrality – what does it really mean?

The Federal Communications Commission is expected Thursday to vote to begin a process to overturn net neutrality rules passed in 2015.

Three weeks ago, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the reversal of those regulations, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from throttling or blocking content online, and were passed by a Democrat-controlled commission.

Pai, a Republican named as chairman by President Trump in January, along with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, also a Republican, opposed those rules at the time as heavy-handed and anti-competitive. The proposal, scheduled to be voted on at the commission’s meeting Thursday morning in Washington, looks to reverse those 2015 rules’ reliance on utility-style regulation based on The Communications Act of 1934.

Also to be considered: the elimination of a “vague” Internet conduct standard meant to prevent ISPs from unreasonable interference with consumer’s access to destinations on the Net; whether to keep or modify the rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking and throttling content or from prioritizing some content over other content, possibly for payment; and preparation of a cost-benefit analysis on possible regulations.

With only a three-member commission — Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is the lone Democrat — the measure is expected to pass and set into motion a four-month period of public comment (initial comments are due July 17 and replies to them due Aug. 16).

The FCC has already received more than 1.6 million comments since Pai announced the plan last month. Before the 2015 rules were passed, the agency got a record 4 million comments.

Likely driving comments has been HBO’s John Oliver’s urging of viewers to contact the FCC during the May 7 episode of his series Last Week Tonight. Subsequently, the FCC said it suffered an online attack that prevented some from posting their comments. Opponents to changing of the net neutrality rules have called…