Source: TV Asia Bureau
The Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to reshape Americans’ online experiences potentially. 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 a phone service.
The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers as Americans have migrated to the internet for most communications. It reflected the view of the Trump administration and the new F.C.C. chairman that unregulated business will eventually yield innovation and help the economy.
It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect but the political and legal combat has already started. 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 lawsuit. The Internet Association, the trade group that represents big tech firms such as Google and Facebook, said it also was considering legal action.
The commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, vigorously defended the repeal before the vote. He said the rollback of the rules would eventually benefit consumers because broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast could offer them a wider variety of service options. His two fellow Republican commissioners also supported the change, giving them a 3-to-2 majority.
During Mr. Pai’s speech before the vote, security guards entered the meeting room at the F.C.C. headquarters and told everyone to evacuate. The commissioners were ushered out a back door. The agency did not say what had caused the evacuation, other than stating it to be “on the advice of security.”