WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.
The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that 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.
The repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules Thursday wipes from the books regulations that prevented Internet service providers from blocking or slowing some websites, and charging more for others to run faster.
It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so consumers will not see any of the potential changes right away. But the political and legal fight started immediately. Numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a bill that would reestablish the rules, and several Democratic state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, said they would file a suit to stop the change.
Several public interest groups including Public Knowledge and the National Hispanic Media Coalition also promised to file a suit. The Internet Association, the trade group that represents big tech firms such as Google and Facebook, said it also was considering legal action.
The new regulations, passed by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission’s 3-2 vote, instead require companies like Verizon and Comcast to disclose if they block sites or give priority to their own content more than others — say by allowing Comcast unit NBCUniversal’s sites to run at a faster clip than Time Warner’s CNN.com.
Critics of the changes say that consumers will have more difficulty accessing content online and that start-ups will have to pay to reach consumers. In the past week, there have been hundreds of protests across the country, and many websites have encouraged users to speak up against the repeal.
In front of a room packed with reporters and television cameras from the major networks, the two Democratic commissioners warned of consumer harms to come from the changes.
Fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC had shown “contempt” for public opinion during the review. She called the process “corrupt”. “As a result of today’s misguided actions, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new powers,” she said.
Mignon Clyburn, one of the Democratic commissioners, presented two accordion folders full of letters protesting the changes, and accused the three Republican commissioners of defying the wishes of millions of Americans by ceding their oversight authority.
I plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution that would restore the Open Internet Order and reverse the @FCC’s historic mistake of repealing #NetNeutrality. This fight is far from over. pic.twitter.com/FTyqf1U83X
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) December 14, 2017
“I dissent, because I am among the millions outraged,” said Ms. Clyburn. “Outraged, because the F.C.C. pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.”
Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner, said it was a “great day” and dismissed critics’ “apocalyptic” warnings. reported NYTimes
“I’m proud to end this two-year experiment with heavy-handed regulation,” Mr. Carr said.