FCC Votes 3-2 to Roll Back 2015 Net Neutrality Regulations

As anticipated, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines yesterday to repeal the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which were originally introduced to help protect an open Internet. FCC chair Ajit Pai and two other Republicans backed the change. Net neutrality rules were created as a means of regulating how broadband providers treat Internet traffic in an effort to avoid slowing content delivery or providing fast lanes for specific services. Dismantling the rules is seen as a win for cable and wireless providers and will likely result in lawsuits.

Immediately following the vote, “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a multistate lawsuit against the agency to preserve the regulations,” reports Wired, adding that Ars Technica pointed out “that so far attorneys general in Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington have also announced suits … Others are likely to join as well—18 state attorneys general signed a letter encouraging the agency to delay the vote.”

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According to Recode, “the FCC’s repeal will open the door for broadband providers to charge third parties, like tech giants, for faster delivery of their web content. Even though the FCC will require telecom companies to be transparent about these arrangements, critics contend these so-called ‘fast lanes’ will limit consumers’ choice in services like video streaming — and harm startups that simply can’t afford to pay such tolls to ISPs.”

Millions of opponents to repealing the rules have submitted their comments to the FCC in recent months, while protests by consumer groups such as Free Press, Demand Progress and Fight for the Future were supported by tech titans Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Earlier this week, a group of 21 Internet pioneers and tech experts — including Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Wozniak — drafted an open letter requesting that the FCC preserve current net neutrality rules.

While the FCC’s action prohibits individual states from creating their own net neutrality rules, some states are forging ahead with workarounds. Washington Governor Jay Inslee outlined measures that “would make life difficult for Internet service providers that don’t promise not to block or discriminate against lawful content, and penalize companies that break their promises,” explains Wired.

“That might mean revoking tax breaks or revoking preferential treatment in utility pole access for some carriers. The plan also calls for a statewide speed standard for broadband Internet, and for the expansion of publicly owned Internet services.”

California state Senator Scott Wiener suggested similar legislation. “California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for Internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages,” he wrote in a blog post.

Meanwhile, Pai defended the repeal of regulations, suggesting it would ultimately help consumers and promote competition. “He said the rollback of the rules would eventually benefit consumers because broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast could offer them a wider variety of service options,” notes The New York Times.

Related:
What Does the End of U.S. Net Neutrality Mean for the World?, CNN, 12/15/17
Read the Republican FCC Members’ Statements For Repealing Net Neutrality, Recode, 12/14/17
Read the Democratic FCC Members’ Statements Against Repealing Net Neutrality, Recode, 12/14/17