Commission votes 3-2 along party lines to undo 2015 order regulating internet service providers.
In a highly contested decision, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to overturn so-called “net neutrality” rules.
The rules, put in under a 2015 directive titled the Open Internet Order, aimed to prevent internet service providers like Verizon or Comcast from charging different amounts for access to different websites. The rule was supported by then-President Barack Obama.
As expected, the 3-2 vote for the “Restoring Internet Freedom” order which repeals the 2015 rules fell upon party lines. The three Republicans on the FCC, including Chair Ajit Pai, voted for the ruling, while the two Democratic commissioners voted against it.
The order has been overwhelmingly criticized by members of Congress, tech companies, advocate groups and millions of Americans.
According to the terms of the order, the FCC would essentially no longer be the regulator of the broadband internet industry. Whether internet providers could charge consumers or companies more for access to services like Twitter, Netflix or Amazon would be left up to an honor system.
House Speaker Paul Ryan applauded the decision after the vote.
“Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society," Ryan said in an official statement.
"The Trump administration’s action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet."
Due to regulatory procedures, however, the new rule changes would not take place until at least the middle of 2018. There might also be Congressional or legal challenges; New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said soon after the vote that he would lead a multi-state lawsuit against the rule revision.
In campaigning for the rule reversal, Pai argued that nothing would change.
“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015,” he said during the meeting. “We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success.”
Pai was joined in voting for the new rules by Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, the two dissenting votes, were very vocal with their disgust with the order.
“I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Clyburn in her dissenting statement.
“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.”