The United States Federal Communications Commission officially opted to repeal the Title II net neutrality rules with a 3-to-2 vote in favor of the controversial move made as part of its Thursday meeting agenda. After a short recess advised by the security for unspecified reasons, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai returned to his prepared remarks and officially concluded the vote by reiterating some of his previous claims about the net neutrality regulations overburdening the industry and stifling innovation.
While the decision is likely to be challenged in courts throughout the country and may even end up being inspected by the U.S. Congress that’s currently being pressured to enact net neutrality protections into law, the development marks an official end to the rules put in place by the same agency in 2015 under the leadership of former Chairman Tom Wheeler. The rules themselves were an interpretation of the U.S. Telecommunications Act, i.e. its Title II provisions regulating common carriers which effectively prevented Internet service providers from selling prioritized access to the World Wide Web and purposefully throttling content originating from certain domains. Should the newly adopted (lack of) rules survive judicial scrutiny, ISPs would be able to throttle one’s speeds depending on the content they’re accessing and charge more for visiting specific website bundles at identical speeds. ISPs may simultaneously try to charge websites themselves to be part of their popular (i.e. affordable) online content packages, thus creating an ecosystem that would significantly hurt small businesses not being able to compete with enterprises that are able to afford such a luxury.
The FCC’s main argument in regards to securing the survival of the open Internet in the post-net neutrality world is the Federal Trade Commission that is theoretically able to sue any abuse of such concepts, even though it’s currently in danger of losing that jurisdiction. The vote on the repeal proposal went as expected, with all three Republican commissioners being in favor of the move and the two Democrats dissenting alongside some emotional remarks. Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn referred to the repeal as “fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order” as part of her remarks on what the FCC called the Restoring Internet Freedom act. Most major ISPs in the country previously publicly approved of the repeal, vowing to maintain the open Internet without the FCC’s intervention, a promise that net neutrality proponents deem naive.
The aforementioned recess was just over ten minutes long, with law enforcement officials and bomb-sniffing dogs surveying the meeting hall, presumably in response to a called-in threat, as captured by the Washington Post’s cameras whose footage can be seen below. From a consumer point of view, not much is set to change in the coming weeks as numerous advocacy groups are now set to sue the FCC over the matter and ISPs aren’t likely to try and take advantage of the newly enacted deregulation in the immediate aftermath of the move.