The FCC, ignoring all to outcry to keep net neutrality regulations in place from Congress, tech experts, organizations and the public, voted to pass a measure that will repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, essentially killing all the protections that net neutrality provided.
The vote was a three to two decision and as you would expect, it was split based on party lines. Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly vote to pass the measure; Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the measure.
Both Rosenworcel and Clyburn have strongly expressed how they felt about order:
“I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you. But what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”
“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
The order will remove the FCC as the broadband industry regulator and remove all the provisions made to prevent blocking and throttling content. The FTC will take the FCC’s regulator role, but they are said to be highly unqualified to fill the role.
And you can expect to see lawsuits against the order in the near future. Right after the vote was made, groups in support of net neutrality have made it clear that they are preparing to challenge it legally. Pro-neutrality lawyer Harold Feld have been planning a while now to take legal action because the draft of the order was made public earlier. “The advantage of having seen a draft of the order first,” Feld says, “is that, as someone planning a judicial challenge, I’m pretty confident we will be successful.”
Additionally, lawmakers could overrule the vote under the Congressional Review Act if a majority of the House and Senate vote to do that within 60 legislative days. Many Democrats have made their voices heard about their disapproval of the measure, while some Republicans have shown some worry about the measure, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) who called for the vote to be delayed. Other Republicans have been very timid with their responses. Since net neutrality is overwhelmingly supported by the mass public, it could be damaging to the GOP politically and it’s very likely they’re worried about that. But even if the majority of the House and Senate did vote to overrule the measure, President Trump would likely veto it and it would take two-thirds of the Senate and the House to overrule him. And that’s a lot to do in just 60 legislative days.
Regardless of what happens on the opposing fronts, net neutrality is gone, for now at least. It’s important to know that you’re not going to see any changes right away. You’re not going to see large parts of the internet suddenly becoming unavailable or suddenly start charging. It’s more likely that the changes are going to be made more slowly, in the background, allowing internet providers to benefit themselves. In a way, it's worse that these changes are going to be happening slowly and subtly, opposed to all at once, because it will be hard to notice these changes happening.