Activists gather before a hearing at the Federal Communications Commission on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Your ability to watch and use your favorite apps and services could start to change — though not right away — following the official demise Monday of Obama-era internet protections.
Any changes are likely to happen slowly, as companies assess how much consumers will tolerate.
The repeal of "net neutrality" took effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favoring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix.
Internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast had to treat all traffic equally. They couldn't slow down or block websites and apps of their choosing. Nor could they charge Netflix and other video services extra to reach viewers more smoothly. The rules also barred a broadband provider from, say, slowing down Amazon's shopping site to extract business concessions.
Now, all that is legal as long as companies post their policies online.
The change comes as broadband and cellphone providers expand their efforts to deliver video and other content to consumers.
With net neutrality rules gone, AT&T and Verizon can give priority to their own movies and TV shows, while hurting rivals such as Amazon, YouTube and startups yet to be born.
But the battle isn't entirely over.
More than 20 states - including California - sued the government to stop the repeal, as did the public-interest group Free Press and the think tank Open Technology Institute and Firefox browser maker Mozilla.
Also, Washington and Oregon passed their own net neutrality laws, and a bill is pending in California's Legislature.
“Today the internet officially became a place where corporations can manipulate consumer choice," wrote state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the author who drafted the bill.
"People in the United States can no longer go online and be certain that where they go on the internet isn’t being influenced to increase one company’s profits or to favor certain information sources," Wiener wrote Monday.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also pledged his support Monday in fighting the FCC's repeal. He is a part of a coalition of 23 other attorneys general suing the FCC.
"We will continue to see that case through in the court of law, and we will continue to support efforts in California that would allow us to defend our vibrant internet economy and consumer choice,” Becerra wrote.
The Senate also voted to save net neutrality, though that effort isn't likely to become law.
For now, broadband providers insist they won't do anything that would harm the "internet experience" for consumers. Most currently have service terms that specify they won't give preferential treatment to certain websites and services, including their own.
However, companies are likely to drop these self-imposed restrictions; they will just wait until people aren't paying a lot of attention, said Marc Martin, a former FCC staffer who is now chairman of communications practice at the law firm Perkins Coie. Any changes now, while the spotlight is on net neutrality, could lead to a public relations backlash.
The pushback at the state level is another reason companies are likely to move slowly, at least at first.
"They don't want to add fuel to the fire," Martin said.
Companies are likely to start testing the boundaries over the next six months to a year. Expect to see more offers like AT&T's exemption of its DirecTV Now streaming TV service from customers' mobile data limits. Rival services like Sling TV and Netflix count video against data caps, essentially making them more expensive to watch.
Although the FCC issued a report in January 2017 saying such arrangements, known as "zero rating," are probably anti-consumer, the agency did not require companies to change their practices right away. After President Trump appointed a new chairman to the FCC, the agency reversed its stance on zero rating and proceeded to kill net neutrality.
Critics of net neutrality, including the Trump administration, say such rules impeded companies' ability to adapt to a quickly evolving internet.
But consumer advocates say that the repeal is just pandering to big business and that cable and phone giants will now be free to block access to services they don't like. They can also set up "fast lanes" for preferred services — in turn, relegating everyone else to "slow lanes." Tech companies such as Netflix, Spotify and Snap echoed similar concerns in regulatory filings.
Martin said broadband providers probably won't mess with existing services like Netflix, as that could alienate consumers.
But they could start charging extra for services not yet offered. For instance, they might charge more to view high-resolution "4K" video, while offering lower-quality video for free. The fees would be paid by the video services, such as Hulu, and could be passed along to consumers in higher subscription rates.
This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.
Sarah Craig of KQED News contributed to this report.