Despicable: With net neutrality repeal looming, Comcast abandons open internet pledge

Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed plans to pursue a repeal of net neutrality legislation. And when the commission made its intentions public earlier this year, Comcast removed a pledge to uphold net neutrality from its website.

Since 2014, the company’s website had featured the statement, “Comcast doesn’t prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes” on a page dedicated to net neutrality, according to a report from Ars Technica. It remained there until April 26; it wasn’t present as of April 27. The removal of the pledge may open the door for Comcast to create a tiered internet system, where some websites are faster and easier to access than others, potentially because they’ve paid the Internet service provider to promote their site or service.

Pai detailed his first version of the plan for a net neutrality repeal on April 26. Comcast’s open internet pledge still contains references to “full transparency” and “sustainable and legally enforceable net neutrality protections,” but it no longer makes any promises regarding traffic prioritization or fast lanes.

There are many reasons why the repeal of net neutrality could potentially be a bad thing for consumers, but this is one troubling aspect of the plans being made. Without these regulations, companies like Comcast would be able to artificially slow connection speeds for customers trying to access particular types of content. (Confused by net neutrality? Read our full primer to understand the complexities of the issue.)

For example, if a particular internet service provider has a deal with a specific search engine — like Verizon, which owns Yahoo — we might see competing search engines load their results a little slower. In some cases, they might be blocked entirely unless the customer buys a package that secures access, but Comcast is still making the pledge that this will not be the case.

The company issued a statement denying that it has entered into any paid prioritization agreements, and confirmed that it has no plans to do so at this time, according to CNET. Of course, given the removal of the public pledge, it’s possible that these measures could be established in the future.

A net neutrality repeal has been looming for some time, but now it’s finally at hand — it’s set to go to a vote on December 14.

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