The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules that prohibited internet providers like Comcast and Verizon from giving special treatment to some web content over others.
The 3-2 vote was along party lines, removing the 2015 Obama-era Open Internet Order.
The repeal faced fierce backlash from members of Congress, advocacy organizations, technical experts, and a portion of the American people. Dozens of Democratic lawmakers and activists protested outside.
“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We were not living in some digital dystopia,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said ahead of the vote. “The main problem consumers have with the internet is not and has never been that their internet provider is blocking access to content. It’s been that they don’t have access at all.”
Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat on the commission who voted against the repeal, said in her dissenting statement:
“As a result of today’s misguided action, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new power from this agency. They will have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road.”
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who also dissented said: “I dissent. I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order. I dissent, because I am among the millions who is outraged. Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.”
In recent weeks leading up to the historic vote, Pai has argued that Silicon Valley titans represent a “much bigger actual threat” to the open internet than internet service providers (ISP). However, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called that argument “absurd,” according to The Hill.
“There’s a total difference in terms of the essential necessity of having access to the internet, versus having access to a particular platform. Facebook and Google aren’t providing the gateway of access to the internet, that’s a whole different thing.”