In a controversial change that will impact the flow of information and content online and almost certainly be challenged in court, the Federal Communications Commission has voted along party lines to adopt a proposal titled Restoring Internet Freedom Order, otherwise known as a repeal of the landmark net neutrality protections.The FCC voted 3-2 to accept Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to take broadband out from under Title II of the Telecommunications Act and sweep away measures that prohibit ISPs from blocking and throttling content. As a result, large telecoms will have more latitude to discriminate against content, although Comcast and Verizon are among those who have pledged not to do such a thing.
Pai has positioned the move as a return to light-touch regulation where the government will be forbidden from “micromanaging the internet.” He believes it will also spur investment in broadband development throughout the nation.
Critics worry about the possibility of fast- and slow-lanes, more costs for consumers and disruption to innovation if paying for traffic prioritization becomes a necessity in the new economy.
Promoted to chairmanship by President Donald Trump, Pai has been working throughout the year on the Restoring Internet Freedom proposal along with other rules to loosen media ownership restrictions. He presided over a comment period where tens of millions weighed in — a contentious process many say was corrupted by the presence of bots.
At a hearing today, the commissioners explained their reasoning for voting as they did.
“For those of you out there that are fearful what tomorrow may bring, please take a deep breath,” said Michael O’Rielly, a Republican commissioner who voted for the new rules. “This decision will not break the internet.”
O’Rielly added, “I for one see great value in the prioritization of telemedicine and autonomous car technology over cat videos.”