FCC votes to repeal net neutrality rules
By JEFFREY COOK and ADAM KELSEY
ABC News – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal the so-called net neutrality rules that govern the way internet service providers treat different types of content and data.
The five commissioners of the FCC voted along party lines — three Republicans to two Democrats — to roll back the rules, imposed in 2015 under President Barack Obama. The public debate over the rules had been heated at times and Thursday’s decision came after a brief delay when, on the “advice of security,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced that they would need to take a recess and the hearing room was evacuated.
Repeal supporters claimed the rules unnecessarily regulated the industry and impeded upon the free market.
Under the rules rescinded Thursday, internet service providers were prohibited from influencing loading speeds for specific websites or apps. The vote rolled back the policies that treated the internet like a utility and could potentially lead to the creation of different lanes of speeds for websites or content creators willing to pay for them. Critics worry that those costs could be passed along to consumers.
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Internet service providers will have to disclose whether they engage in certain types of conduct, such as blocking and prioritization, following Thursday’s decision. They must further explicitly publicize what is throttled and what is blocked, with the information posted on an easily accessible website hosted by the company or the FCC.
Repeal is a hallmark victory for the FCC’s Republican chairman Ajit Pai whose 11-month tenure has seen him strongly advocate for reduced regulation. Pai was named FCC chairman in January by President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his interest in reigning in Obama-era business regulations.
Eighteen state attorneys general made a last ditch effort to delay the vote by claiming they have uncovered more than a million public comments on the motion using fraudulent identities.
“The FCC must delay its vote until we get to the bottom of this massive fraud,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Pai ignored requests for a delay.
An additional bipartisan request to halt the vote came from Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Angus King, I-Maine, this week, who argued that Congress and the FCC should hold public hearings “in order to investigate the best way to ensure citizens, and our economy have strong net neutrality protections that guarantee consumer choice, free markets, and continued growth.”
More than a hundred House Republicans sent a letter to the FCC on Wednesday applauding the agency’s plan to repeal its net neutrality rules.
Some internet service providers, including Comcast, while supporting the repeal, have promised never to throttle speeds or block websites.
ABC News’ Lindsey Jacobson contributed to this report.