As expected the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines with Trump appointee FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Reilly voting for the repeal and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel opposing it.
The repeal which falls under the order “Restoring Internet Freedom” removes the FCC as the regulating agency of the broadband industry and shifts the function to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
With net neutrality now history, there are no more rules that would prevent the giant telco companies from blocking or throttling content on its network.
The FCC pushed through with the repeal despite net neutrality receiving support from Congress, Internet and technology experts and a significant number of advocacy groups.
Of course there is the matter of the controversy surrounding the barrage of 22 million comments received by the commission’s website, majority of which were supportive of net neutrality.
If Pai and his fellow Republican commissioners chose to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to these voices and comments because they believed a 3-2 vote would end discussions once and for all, they will be in for a rude awakening in 2018.
Shortly after the FCC vote officially killed net neutrality, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman disclosed he would initiate a suit to stop the commission’s repeal of the 2015 legislation:
“We will be filing a claim to preserve protections for New Yorkers and all Americans. And we’ll be working aggressively to stop the FCC’s leadership from doing any further damage to the Internet and to our economy.
“Today’s new rule would enable ISP’s to charge consumers more to access sites like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade high quality of video streaming until and unless somebody pays them more money. Even worse, today’s vote would enable ISP’s to favour certain viewpoints over others.”
Schneiderman did not mention if other states would join in the suit. However, it should be expected the 18 attorneys general that sent a joint letter to Pai requesting for a delay in the vote would also come up with legal action.
The suit will allege that 2 million comments posted on FCC’s websites used stolen identities. So far, a total of 5,000 complaints have been filed. Among the identity theft victims were senior citizens, minors and the deceased.
Once all the form-generated and bot-generated comments were filtered out, 98.5% of the organic comments or those written by people who took the time to participate, were found to oppose Pai’s plans to repeal net neutrality.
In addition to Schneiderman and the attorneys general, Pai and the FCC should likewise expect pressure and perhaps collective legal action from tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix.
As Democratic Commissioner Clyburn said in a statement condemning the repeal:
“What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you, but what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”