FCC votes to eliminate net neutrality rules once and for all

(Image: © Flickr via Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten)

In an effort to undo what Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai called a "mistake," the FCC voted 2-1 today to begin tearing down net neutrality rules that were put in place only two years ago, Arstechnica reports.

This moment was seemingly inevitable the moment Pai assumed the role of FCC Chairman. He has been unwavering in his criticism of treating broadband Internet as a utility. His position is that utility-style regulations, such as those imposed by his predecessor Tom Wheeler, serve only to create "uncertainty in the market, and uncertainty is the enemy of growth."

"The Internet was not broken in 2015," Pai said today before the vote. "We were not living in a digital dystopia. Nonetheless, the FCC that year succumbed to partisan pressure from the White House and changed course." 

Pai went on to say that net neutrality rules place a burden on ISPs, both large and small, and that the Title II rules also ultimately made ISPs hesitate before building or expanding networks. His comments come a month after Verizon inked a deal to purchase up to 12.4 million miles of optical fiber from Corning each year from 2018 to 2020, with a purchase commitment of at least $1.05 billion.

"This new architecture is designed to improve Verizon's 4G LTE coverage, speed the deployment of 5G, and deliver high-speed broadband to homes and businesses of all sizes," Verizon said in a statement. There was no mention of net neutrality rules giving the company pause in deciding to make the hefty investment.

For now, existing net neutrality rules are still in place. That means ISPs and wireless carriers are still bound by regulations preventing them from charging a premium for so-called Internet fast lanes. ISPs are also prohibited from blocking lawful content and services or throttling such traffic.

However, today's vote does set in motion the eventual dismantling of the Open Internet Order. The next step is to open up the discussion to the public with a commenting period that will last for several months. During that time, companies, interest groups, and pretty much anyone with a vested interest can ping the FCC with their opinions.

Once the commenting period expires, the FCC will put together a final proposal that will supposedly take the opinions collected into consideration. Whether the FCC opts to replace net neutrality rules with any kind of alternative protections remains to be seen.

What does this mean for PC gaming? As we previously noted on the subject, you'll still be able to play games after the rules are repealed. In fact, you aren't likely to notice much of anything in the short term.

Looking down the road, however, revoking net neutrality rules could have a negative impact on our hobby, especially as it become increasingly intertwined with the Internet.