On December 14th, the United States government opted to repeal rules that regulate internet service providers. The regulations, known as net neutrality, prevent ISPs from controlling access to online services with discriminatory measures.
In a 3-2 vote, the US Federal Communications Commission did away with the Obama-era regulations. The FCC during Obama’s presidential tenure voted to classify internet providers as Title II common carriers. After the December 14th repeal, the new FCC removed this classification, unravelling the legal backing for net neutrality as a result.
Under the doctrine of net neutrality, ISPs cannot block or control customer access to certain applications, websites, and content. Further, they cannot charge users more for faster internet or subscriptions to certain resources. For example, with net neutrality repealed, ISPs could theoretically ask their customers to pay for packages that grant them access to specific services, like a social media bundle for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Now that the decision has been reached, the FCC will spend the following weeks hashing out the adjusted rules. After they’ve made their final touches, the changes will be filed to the Federal Registry and take effect within a few months.
What This Means for Crypto and Blockchain at Large
There’s no crystal ball for us to look into to predict the future, so we can’t say for sure what repealing net neutrality will do for cryptocurrencies in the United States. There are a few potential scenarios, however, that come to mind.
For starters, ISPs could target exchanges by throttling database access, essentially limiting the number of connections and client queues they allow for each exchange. They could also outright block user access to these exchanges or charge a premium.
Lack of net neutrality could also threaten the nodes that comprise the majority of cryptocurrency networks. If ISPs decide that they don’t want to support individually run nodes, peer-to-peer application could run into trouble. Throttling connectivity to these services could mean that the platforms cannot function freely or efficiently, and forcing customers to pay for hosting or accessing a node could de-incentivize users from utilizing these platform entirely.