The FCC’s vote Tuesday to kill net neutrality rules that would have limited internet providers to blocking and throttling traffic will be viewed as a victory for the cable industry and for the interests of broadband providers.
But some consumer advocates have argued that the move by the commission to block the rules will make it harder for consumers to get the most affordable internet.
The net neutrality vote is likely to give a boost to Comcast’s $45 billion merger with Time Warner, which would create the world’s largest cable operator and a rival to Charter Communications.
Comcast will also get the right to charge for internet service from a new broadband service called Xfinity Instant, which will offer access to the Internet to people who have cable.
The commission’s vote to kill the rules was widely expected, and the move will be seen as a major victory for cable companies that have long argued that consumers should be able to get more affordable Internet.
But for some consumers, the vote is a blow to the internet.
“This will be a big victory for Comcast and the cable companies, but the Internet is going to be worse off,” said David Smith, a senior policy analyst at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.
“If you have the best of both worlds, you can have both of them.”
Comcast’s merger with Charter will give it a significant advantage in the wireless market, where wireless service is much more expensive than cable, Smith said.
But consumer advocates and other critics have argued the merger would not help consumers, as cable providers would continue to make money from bundled services like TV and internet video.
The FCC vote was a victory not just for cable operators but also for internet providers, said Alex Seitz-Wald, executive director of consumer advocacy nonprofit Free Press.
“We don’t know how much better off we’ll be for the next few years, if at all,” he said.
“The companies that are going to get to keep their jobs will be the ones that are willing to make deals with the FCC and do the best they can to help the people they serve.”
Comcast and Charter have said the merger will help consumers by lowering the costs of their broadband service, and it would help pay for the cost of broadband infrastructure, like wireless networks.
“Today’s decision means that cable companies will be able provide more competitive Internet service to customers at an affordable price,” Comcast said in a statement.
The vote is also a blow for the wireless industry, which has fought against net neutrality laws for years.
In October, the FCC voted 5-4 to kill a rule that would prevent broadband providers from slowing down or blocking traffic on the internet, even in cases where the users are not using the service.
That rule was the first of its kind in the U.S., and critics said it would have put the power of internet providers into the hands of Internet service providers.