In a highly controversial proceeding, the FCC voted 3-2 today to reverse the Title II regulation of broadband internet access service, known as Net Neutrality, implemented in 2015. Additionally, the FCC instituted transparency requirements that will protect consumers by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive and deceptive acts.
“The framework adopted by the Commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “Restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.”
Adding to the tension surrounding the FCC vote, federal protective service interrupted the meeting and cleared the room in the middle of Chairman Pai’s statement. The meeting came back to order minutes later. It was later divulged that the break was the result of a bomb scare.
Comm. Mignon Clyburn, who dissented, characterized the FCC’s action as the “destroying Internet Freedom” order. In her “eulogy,” she described the Net Neutrality rule as a “carefully crafted” attempt to strike a balance between protecting consumers and enabling investment in the internet. She noted the high probability that the issue will be decided in the courts.
“What saddens me the most is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you,” Clyburn said. “What I am pleased to say is that the fight to save Net Neutrality does not end today. The agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness for that.”
Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel had a finger on the pulse of why the FCC received 22 million comments in the Net Neutrality proceeding, not to mention the countless protests that occurred.
“The future of the internet is the future of everything,” she wrote in a dissenting statement. “That is because there is nothing in our commercial, social and civic lives that has been untouched by its influence or unmoved by its power.”
The Restoring Internet Freedom order eliminates the net neutrality rules, which have both survived challenges in the courts and now enjoy popularity among the American people, according to Rosenworcel.
“Today we wipe away this work, destroy this progress and burn down time-tested values that have made our internet economy the envy of the world,” she wrote.
New York AG to Sue Government over Internet Freedom Order
The next stage of the drama is already set. Among others, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman plans to lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the rollback of net neutrality.
“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” he said in a press release. “The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”