FCC Votes 3-2 to Undo Sweeping Obama-Era 'Net Neutrality' Rules - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

FCC Votes 3-2 to Undo Sweeping Obama-Era 'Net Neutrality' Rules

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FCC Statement FCC Statement

The Federal Communications Commission has voted on party lines to undo sweeping Obama-era "net neutrality" rules that guaranteed equal access to internet.

The agency's Democratic commissioners dissented in the 3-2 vote Thursday.

The FCC's new rules could usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet. The agency got rid of rules that barred companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from playing favorites with internet apps and sites.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn't going to change. But protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

Net-neutrality supporters plan legal challenges. Some Democrats hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

In response, New York's Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman tweeted, “I will sue to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of #netneutrality. New Yorkers and all Americans deserve a free and open internet.”

Earlier, the hearing was suddenly suspended during closing arguments. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stood from his chair and told the assembled group that "on advice of security" they would take a short recess. 

The room was quickly cleared by police, attendees were told to leave their bags, and the room was subsequently swept by sniffer dogs and DHS law enforcement officials. The nature of the security alert is not yet known. 

After a five-minute recess, the audience were allowed back into the room and Ajit Pai resumed his comments on net neutrality.

Pai, a former Verizon attorney who was appointed by President Donald Trump, says his plan eliminates unnecessary regulation that stood in the way of connecting more Americans to the internet. Under his proposal, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his plan eliminates unnecessary regulation that stood in the way of connecting more Americans to the internet. Under his proposal, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

The change also axes consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC's approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

After the FCC released its plan in late November, well-known telecom and media analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson wrote in a note to investors that the FCC plan dismantles "virtually all of the important tenets of net neutrality itself."

That could result in phone and cable companies forcing people to pay more to do what they want online. The technology community, meanwhile, fears that additional online tolls could hurt startups who can't afford to pay them - and, over the long term, diminish innovation.

"We're a small company. We're about 40 people. We don't have the deep pockets of Google, Netflix, Amazon to just pay off ISPs to make sure consumers can access our service," said Andrew McCollum, CEO of streaming-TV service Philo.

Portugal may offer insight into what types of plans Americans could see without net neutrality. Services slice and dice programs and data by types of applications, such as "messaging" or "music." While Portugal is bound by the European Union's net neutrality laws, it does have some freedom in "zero-rating" plans, or providing data from certain sites or services that might be unlimited as part of a monthly package. 

(The Associated Press, CBS News contributed to this report.)

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