How a Trump Administration Could Shape the Internet

Under a President Donald Trump, cable and phone companies could gain new power to influence what you do and what you watch online -- not to mention how much privacy you have while you're at it.

Many experts say that Republicans who generally oppose regulation are likely to take charge at the Federal Communications Commission, the government's primary telecom regulator. That alone could mean the end of rules designed to protect privacy and individual choice on the internet. Those rules were enacted over the past several years under the Obama administration.

Under Trump, "the FCC will be a lot more focused on getting government out of the way," said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a think tank that opposes much regulation. Phone and cable companies routinely protest that regulation lead them to invest less in their networks, harming their ability to deliver better service.

Deregulation raises concerns for consumer advocates -- not just in terms of rolling back rules, but also potentially allowing more huge mergers, which several analysts expect despite Trump's campaign swipes at big media . Under the coming administration, a laxer FCC could result in even higher cable and internet bills, worse customer service and fewer choices, says Harold Feld, senior vice president at public-interest group Public Knowledge.

Of course, it's difficult to know exactly what to expect, given Trump's aversion to policy specifics and frequent reversals during the campaign. Representatives for Trump's transition team didn't reply to requests for comment.

Net Neutrality

One possible first target: Rules that aim to protect individual choice and innovation on the internet.

Suppose that firing up Netflix or YouTube led only to delays and stuttering playback that still counted against the limited data in your broadband plan -- a sharp contrast to the speedy video app offered by your phone or cable company, which incurs no data...

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