How FCC’s Net Neutrality Rollback Could Hurt Cannabis

Article by Ben Adlin, Leafly

How FCC’s Net Neutrality Rollback Could Hurt Cannabis

Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3–2 on Thursday to undo government rules that regulate internet service providers, repealing so-called net neutrality regulations amid an outcry from consumer advocates.

The decision grants broadband companies sweeping control over how Americans access the internet. It removes rules that prohibited providers from blocking websites, slowing access to some services, or charging more for certain content.

Wired magazine describes the rollback as “the difference between a free and open online experience, and one where corporations dictate what you can see, and how fast you can see it.”

The new rules pose a potentially big threat to the cannabis movement, which has relied on the internet as a vital tool for education, research, and political organizing. Removing net neutrality protections could stifle advocacy efforts, hamper small businesses, and prevent medical patients from accessing vital information.

Cannabis isn’t alone. Critics say the new policy could hurt all sorts of stakeholders: studentsstartupsrural Americaminority womensmall businesses in Texasthe #MeToo movement, and countless others. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said in a letter to the FCC that repealing net-neutrality protections “would cause immediate harm to the innovation economy.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai disagrees. “We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said before Thursday’s vote, according to the New York Times. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”

The degree of change consumers will experience will depend largely on the degree to which internet providers take advantage of the new rules. Comcast, which spent big on a social media campaign in support of the rollback, has pledged on numerous occasions to “not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

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