FCC Votes To Repeal Obama-Era Net Neutrality Protections

Thursday, December 14, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Dec 14, 2017

Three weeks after introducing the plan, the FCC – in a 3-2 vote along party lines – has voted to repeal net neutrality rules adopted by the Obama administration in 2015, triggering a torrent of outraged backlash from consumers who view the decision as blatantly benefitting telecoms companies at the public’s expense.

While events proceeded mostly as expected, the lengthy hearing was interrupted by a “brief recess” shortly before 1 p.m. Media reports said the room was cleared because of an unspecified threat, and Capitol police brought in bomb-sniffing dogs to check the area before the comments could resume.

“The fight for the future of the internet has come to a head” is one of the dramatic headlines surrounding the Republican-led FCC’s. Democrats on the committee dissented to the decision, describing it as an “internet-destroying” order that would benefit corporations at the extent of broadband consumers.

“The public can plainly see that a soon to be toothless FCC is ahdning the keys to the Internet…over to a handful of multi-billion-dollar corporations,” one Democratic member said.

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by President Trump, has framed the repeal as getting the government to “stop micromanaging the internet.”

The issue was the fourth item on the agency’s agenda. It was entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom.”

Making the case for the rule, a lawyer for the Wireline Bureau, a Telecom industry lobbying group, said the Obama era rules stifle conpetition and deter investment.

But one dissenting commissioner – in a longwinded defense of the status quo – blasted Telecoms companies and the FCC for siding with corporations against the “will of the people.

“When the current protections are abandoned…we will have a Cheshire Cat version of net neutrality. We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all thats left is a broadband providers toothy grin,” the Commissioner said. “Right now we have every incentive to do the right thing. Now, they’ll have every incentive to do their own thing.”

She also complained that the FCC refused to acknowledge public comments opposing the rule change, while deliberately ignoring the public backlash.

In comments defending Pai’s plan, another commission described opponents’ claims about harms to consumers resulting from the rule change were “fraudulent” and didn’t represent “reality”.

“This decision will NOT break the internet. What we are doing is reverting back to the bi-partisan approach that existed before 2015,” he said.

He added that there is no legal basis to delay the committee’s decision.

Shortly before the vote, Pai reiterated his argument that net neutrality existed before the Obama administration applied Title II protections to broadband access. But Pai said the apocolyptic rhetoric is “quite somethng.”

“The sky isn’t falling consumers will remain protected and the Internet will flourish,” he said. “Title II did not create the open internet, and Title II isn’t necessary to maintain it.”

He added that the decision includes “powerful legal checks” to stop ISPs from taking advantage of consumers.

The FCC’s proposal elicited vociferous public outrage, with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers speaking out against the decision, denouncing the plan as a corporate powergrab that would benefit telecoms companies at the expense of virtually everybody else. Indeed, the issue is extremely unpopular, with some polls showing 75% of the public opposes Pai’s proposed changes.

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