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Your internet use could change as 'net neutrality' ends

AP  |  New York 

Your ability to watch and use your favourite apps and could start to change though not right away following the official demise today of Obama-era

Any changes are likely to happen slowly, as companies assess how much consumers will tolerate.

The repeal of "net neutrality" took effect six months after the voted to undo the rules, which had barred and cellphone companies from favouring their own and discriminating against rivals such as

such as AT&T, and had to treat all traffic equally. They couldn't slow down or block websites and apps of their choosing. Nor could they charge and other video extra to reach viewers more smoothly. The rules also barred a provider from, say, slowing down Amazon's shopping site to extract business concessions.

Now, all that is legal as long as companies post their

The change comes as and cellphone providers expand their efforts to deliver video and other content to consumers.

With rules gone, and can give priority to their own movies and TV shows, while hurting rivals such as Amazon, and startups yet to be born. The battle isn't entirely over, though. Some states are moving to restore net neutrality, and lawsuits are pending. Also, the voted to save net neutrality, though that effort isn't likely to become

For now, broadband providers insist they won't do anything that would harm the "internet experience" for consumers. Most currently have service terms that specify they won't give preferential treatment to certain websites and services, including their own.

However, companies are likely to drop these self-imposed restrictions; they will just wait until people aren't paying a lot of attention, said Marc Martin, a former FCC staffer who is now of at the firm Any changes now, while the spotlight is on net neutrality, could lead to a

Companies are likely to start testing the boundaries over the next six months to a year. Expect to see more offers like AT&T's exemption of its Now streaming TV service from customers' mobile data limits. Rival services like Sling TV and count video against data caps, essentially making them more expensive to watch.

Although the FCC issued a report in January 2017 saying such arrangements, known as "zero rating," are probably anti-consumer, the agency did not require companies to change their practices right away. After appointed a new to the FCC, the agency reversed its stance on zero rating and proceeded to kill

Critics of net neutrality, including the Trump administration, say such rules impeded companies' ability to adapt to a quickly evolving internet.

But consumer advocates say that the repeal is just pandering to big business and that cable and phone giants will now be free to block access to services they don't like. They can also set up "fast lanes" for preferred services in turn, relegating everyone else to "slow lanes." Tech companies such as Netflix, and echoed similar concerns in regulatory filings.

Martin said broadband providers probably won't mess with existing services like Netflix, as that could alienate consumers.

But they could start charging extra for services not yet offered. For instance, they might charge more to view high-resolution "4K" video, while offering lower-quality video for free. The fees would be paid by the video services, such as Hulu, and could be passed along to consumers in higher subscription rates.

More than 20 states sued the government to stop the repeal, as did the group and tank Open Institute and

and now have their own laws, and a bill is pending in

That's another reason companies are likely to move slowly, at least at first.

"They don't want to add fuel to the fire," Martin said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 12 2018. 01:00 IST
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