The noise over whether your Internet provider is the reason you can't get "Stranger Things" to stream smoothly is about go up a decibel.
The repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules Thursday wipes from the books regulations that prevented Internet service providers from blocking or slowing some websites, and charging more for others to run faster.
The new regulations, passed by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission's 3-2 vote, instead require companies like Verizon and Comcast to disclose if they block sites or give priority to their own content more than others — say by allowing Comcast unit NBCUniversal's sites to run at a faster clip than Time Warner's CNN.com.
The onus shifts to the public to flag any signs these Internet gatekeepers are playing favorites including with their own properties — and report them to the Federal Trade Commission if it looks like the provider is trying to suppress a competitor. The big Internet and cable providers, who lobbied hard for repeal, say they won't stop or slow any legal content.
But the change does open the door for ISPs to charge more to some big broadband users, say Netflix or YouTube, which could pass those increased costs to their subscribers.
In theory, ISPs could charge subscribers more, too. Forrester Research analyst Susan Bidel points to other countries like Portugal and England where Internet providers offer monthly services with extra fees for social, messaging and video viewing. Companies like AT&T and Verizon "could charge extra here," says Bidel.
But broadband providers have a big reason not to starting adding a special "YouTube" fee to your monthly bill: consumer ire, which is quick to ignite with any price hike. In fact, the new FCC sees public pressure as one of the forces that will check Internet providers from abusing the lighter regulations.
That outrage should work in a market where consumers have more than one choice for high-speed access. They'll have less leverage when the local cable company is the only game in town.
The replacement rules are slated to go into effect as soon as next month. But expect a noisy fight online and in the courts before then — and after.
Advocates of the Obama-era net neutrality rules — including large Internet companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix — are already planning strategies to combat the regulations in Congress and the courts.