FCC votes to overturn net neutrality, sets up legal showdown

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3–2 along party lines early Thursday afternoon to approve the repeal of so-called net neutrality rules finalized during Barack Obama’s White House tenure.

A move anticipated for nearly a year, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has assured the public that rolling back regulations meant to protect internet consumers will not impede “free expression online,” and that the Federal Trade Commission will fill the void to ensure fair business practices on the part of broadband providers.

Dissenting votes came from both of the commission’s Democratic members, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, who warned about the consequences of such a move, most notably the debilitating effects of corporate dominance which they say a lack of federal oversight will lead to.

“Why are we witnessing such an unprecedented groundswell of public support, for keeping the 2015 net neutrality protections in place?” Ms. Clyburn asked rhetorically. “Because the public can plainly see, that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the internet . . . over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations. And if past is prologue, those very same broadband internet service providers . . . will put profits and shareholder returns above what is best for you.”

Some opponents of Chairman Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom”, which overturns the 2015 “Open Internet Order”, have already vowed to sue, including the Democratic state attorneys general of New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, as well as the ACLU.

Online entertainment company Netflix and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson argue that startup companies will be harmed by the FCC’s action.

In addition, other net neutrality advocates have started campaigns urging Congress to intervene and legislate internet protections into the law, drawing the sympathy from at least one GOP senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, and many liberal-minded lawmakers, including Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

On the other side of the ledger, Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argues ending net neutrality will “return the internet to a consumer-driven marketplace free of innovation-stifling regulations,” and large ISPs like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, support the FCC’s decision.

With legal challenges imminent, the immediate result of which may ultimately delay the FCC from effectively overturning net neutrality for months if not years, the earliest the new rules would most likely go into effect is March 2018.


Editor’s note: This article has been updated.


[CNNMoney] [Reuters] [KOMO News] [Bloomberg] [Photo courtesy Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters via PRI]