The FCC is officially moving forward with the process to strip away open internet rules.
The commission in a public meeting Thursday voted 2-1 in favor of the regulation rollback – it would reclassify the internet to not be a Title II utility, meaning it wouldn't be subject to specific rules. Included in those rules is the 2015 open internet policy, which prohibits Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking content or making some websites load slower than others.
People against this rollback, including Sen. Al Franken, argue this is a step toward killing net neutrality, and opens the door for big companies to control what consumers do online. (More on that below.)
But people who want to undo the open internet rules – such as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who proposed this change – argue the internet was fine and flourishing before so-called net neutrality regulations.
The FCC Twitter account even bills the rollback as "sparking Internet innovation by eliminating vague & undefined FCC rules." And an FCC news release says Thursday's vote is "the first step toward restoring internet freedom and promoting infrastructure investment, innovation, and choice."
What happens now?
Thursday's vote didn't actually change anything. It was basically asking, "Should we pursue this proposal?" With the yes vote, that means the plan is now open for public comments.
People have been submitting their comments now for weeks. And a lot of them.
There are more than 2.1 million submissions since the case was created on April 26. And the site appeared to crash after John Oliver's pro-net neutrality show tackled the topic (though the FCC said that was because of a DDOS attack, not heavy traffic), Consumerist reports.
One analysis found the overwhelming majority are against rolling back the rules.
You can submit your own comment filing here. You have to select the right case in the proceedings section at the top – it's 17-108 Restoring Internet Freedom.
The original story from Thursday morning is below.
Minnesota's Sen. Al Franken joined 12 other colleagues in typing an open letter "to everyone who uses the internet" ahead of a net neutrality vote.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a proposal to roll back rules that had been but in place in 2015. Those rules prevented internet service providers from favoring certain content – so making certain websites load slower, or letting companies pay to make their stuff load faster.
But Ajit Pai, the Donald Trump-appointed FCC chairman, has been critical of those regulations. It's his proposal to undo them that the FCC will vote on Thursday. As The Hill explains, if the proposal is approved, it won't actually go into effect yet – the rollback will go to a public open comment period.
'An open letter to everyone who uses the internet'
But Franken and net neutrality defenders are ramping up their public pushback.
He and the dozen other Democratic senators posted an open letter to TechCrunch explaining why they're against rolling back the net neutrality rules.
They make three key arguments:
– First, that the big companies with lots of money will be able to pay to keep their content favored – and small, innovative start-ups will have a harder time getting noticed.
– Second, that internet service providers could block content, then charge you more to access it. They compare it to cable TV packages; pay more, get access to more channels.
– And third, the ISPs could straight up block content. So if they don't want you seeing certain political views or social media posts, this opens the door for them to keep it hidden.
"This does not have to be the future of our internet," the letter says.
Franken also has a lengthy Twitter thread arguing his points.
Many of the big internet companies – including Amazon, Ebay, Google, Netflix, Reddit, Snapchat, Spotify, Twitter and Uber – have publicly said they're in favor of the current net neutrality rules, and urged the FCC not to undo them.
Pai has argued the rules have slowed investments in the broadband industry, and could get in the way of a widespread adoption of 5G service, WIRED reported. Though public comments from ISPs themselves seem to contradict that.
The FCC meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. CDT.