1. ITV Report

Net neutrality: Protests as US regulator ends laws

Protesters demonstrate against the end of net neutrality in the US Credit: AP

The US government has brought an end to rules ensuring equal access to the internet.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to end net neutrality, which will likely change how Americans use the internet.

Under the new rules, providers like Comcast and AT&T will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing services or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

The new law also bars individual states from imposing their own net neutrality rules.

  • What is net neutrality?

It is the principle that Internet Service Providers must treat all internet data the same. For example this means not blocking or slowing down traffic to companies the ISP may not like, making web pages load slower. It also stops them from providing faster connections to others, meaning companies can't pay for improved speeds over competitors.

  • Does this affect net neutrality in the UK?

Not currently. The UK's net neutrality is currently enshrined in EU law, which upholds strong net neutrality principles. These principles could be written into British law when the UK leaves the European Union.

The US broadband industry has promised the internet experience is not going to change but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn the rules.

Protests have erupted online and in the streets as Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

That growing public movement suggests that the FCC vote will not be the end of the issue.

Opponents of the move plan legal challenges, and some internet neutrality supporters hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

Ajit Pai said the change will eliminate unnecessary regulation Credit: AP

Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for a telecommunications company, is the Republican FCC chairman.

He has said his plan to repeal net neutrality will eliminate unnecessary regulation of the internet - which he has called the "greatest free-market innovation in history".

He added that it "certainly wasn't heavy-handed government regulation" that has been responsible for the internet's "phenomenal" development.

He said: "What is the FCC doing today? Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence."

The change also axes consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC's approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, lambasted the "preordained outcome" of the vote that she said hurts people, small and large businesses, and marginalised populations.

The end of net neutrality, she said, hands over the keys to the internet to a "handful of multibillion-dollar corporations".