The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by chairman Ajit Pai, has voted to overturn “net neutrality” rules that ban internet service providers (ISPs) from controlling the public's access to certain sites.
The Commission voted two-to-one this Thursday (18 May) to end the ‘open internet’ rules enacted in 2015 under Obama’s government.
Those rules banned internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing some web traffic to favour their own content or a paying customer’s.
Republicans say the Obama-era regulation discourages investment and handicaps broadband companies. Democrats say they’re needed to prevent unfair treatment of web traffic by companies that control access to homes and smartphones.
Pai, an ex-Verizon lawyer, has previously said that net neutrality was “a mistake” and that the commission is now “on track” to return to a much lighter style of regulation.
Mignon Clyburn, the agency’s only Democrat, called the proposal “a political rush job" and that actions to dismantle the rules "jeopardizes the ability of the open internet to function".
The vote is the first stage in the process of dismantling the net neutrality regulations. The agency is now inviting public comment on the matter. Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC, when there will be a second, conclusive vote.
More than 1.6 million members of the public emailed comments to the FCC when it first announced it would vote to undo net neutrality laws. Many of the comments were the result of TV comedian John Oliver's plea to viewers to lodge their concerns on the FCC site.