The Federal Communications Commission today voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules put in place by the United States government back in 2015 under the Obama administration (via Recode). Instead of classifying internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has voted 3-2 in favor of rolling back to reclassifying ISPs as “information service” providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.
Now, companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon will be allowed to block or slow down a user’s access to certain websites, as well as potentially charge access to sites and services. The vote passed in favor under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, along with the two other Republican commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr. Outvoted were Democrat commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.
The order now adopted by the FCC today will eliminate a “utility-style regulation” of ISPs, and also removes any requirement for these companies to refrain from blocking or throttling web traffic. One requirement remaining is that telecom companies will be forced to tell customers if and when they prioritize their content over competitors, and if they don’t they could face penalties from the Federal Trade Commission.
Apple and many other large technology companies previously urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. Those in favor of keeping ISPs classified under Title II argued that the FCC rolling back the internet’s classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” Throughout his remarks given today, Pai said that this will not be the case.
And Pai, before the vote was final, sought to swat away his critics. “Following today’s vote,” he began, “Americans will still be able to access the websites they want to visit. They will still be able to enjoy the services they want to enjoy. There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open Internet.”
Apple’s comment on the topic earlier this year stated that this ruling could “fundamentally alter the internet as we know it,” and if it passed it would be put in place to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation. Around the same time, the FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public who voiced their opinions on the controversial issue in the months leading up to today’s vote.
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