It is no longer news that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines on Thursday to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules meant to ensure a more level playing field for users of the internet.
For the most part, this decision is a big win for internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc who now have greater power over what content consumers can and cannot access. Since most communication now occurs via the internet, net neutrality was created to ensure stronger accountability on the part of broadband providers.
Net neutrality regulations prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.
Battle Lines Drawn
Without much ado, the political and legal fight has started. Several Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a bill that would reestablish the rules, and several state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, have stated their intent to file a suit to stop the change. “I will sue to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of #netneutrality. New Yorkers and all Americans deserve a free and open internet,” tweeted Schneiderman.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also announced that he would sue to block the end of net neutrality rules. “We are the 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action,” he said in a statement.
As expected, a number of public interest groups including Public Knowledge and the National Hispanic Media Coalition have also stated their intent to file a suit. Netflix has referred to the repeal of net neutrality by the FCC as “misguided.”
“We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement,” tweeted Netflix. “This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.”
Twitter had this to say, “The @FCC’s vote to gut #NetNeutrality rules is a body blow to innovation and free expression. We will continue our fight to defend the open Internet and reverse this misguided decision.”
The meeting by the FCC on Thursday was not without drama as protesters held online and in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington. Also, the premises of the meeting was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after law enforcement with sniffer dogs checked the room.
Democrats have pointed to polls showing the net neutrality repeal is deeply unpopular and say they will prevail in protecting the rules, either in the courts or in U.S. Congress. Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat, said he and 15 other senators planned to introduce a resolution to undo the FCC action and restore the net neutrality rules.
California State Senator Proposes State-Wide Net Neutrality Law
A California state senator has proposed state-wide net neutrality law to replace the repealed net neutrality rules.
“By repealing net neutrality requirements, the Trump-controlled FCC is allowing internet service providers to decide which websites will be easily accessible and which won’t. Providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed or slow traffic to certain sites and even block access,” State Sen. Scott Wiener (D) wrote in a piece on Medium.
Bot-Plagued Open Comments
Several attorneys general had criticized Pai’s decision to proceed with the net neutrality vote on Thursday. They questioned the legitimacy of the open comment period in which the public could file opinions on net neutrality, citing the millions of fake comments that were filed during the process.