FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Move rolls back restrictions that keep big providers from blocking services they don’t like

Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York on Dec 7. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

In a vote along party lines, the U.S. government has ended sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet.

The Thursday vote at the Federal Communications Commission will likely usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet, a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight. The move not only rolls back restrictions that keep broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or collecting tolls from services they don’t like, but bars states from imposing their own rules.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn these rules. Protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

That growing public movement suggests that the FCC vote won’t be the end of the issue. Opponents of the move plan legal challenges, and some net-neutrality supporters hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who said his plan to repeal net neutrality will eliminate unnecessary regulation, called the internet the “greatest free-market innovation in history.” He added that it “certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation” that’s been responsible for the internet’s “phenomenal” development.

“What is the FCC doing today?” he asked. “Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

Under the new rules, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

The change also axes consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC’s approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who was appointed by President Barack Obama, lambasted the “preordained outcome” of the vote that she says hurts people, small and large businesses, and marginalized populations. She outlined her dissent from prepared remarks before the vote.

The end of net neutrality, she said, hands over the keys to the internet to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

With their vote, the FCC’s majority commissioners are abandoning the pledge they took to make a rapid, efficient communications service available to all people in the U.S., without discrimination, Clyburn said in her dissenting remarks before the vote.

Tali Arbel And Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region is at 533

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen compost project receives recognition

Federation of Canadian Municipalities names regional district for environmental leadership

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm have died of illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

More wildfire smoke to fill the Okanagan

The smoke is coming from wildfires in California but is expected to be much lighter

COLUMN: The effects of proroguing Parliament

Only four hours were allotted for debating $50 billion in deficit spending

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Documentary to celebrate the Shuswap’s music scene

Local initiative to feature several of the region’s artists

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Guns seized in relation to southeast Kelowna murder investigation

RCMP seized several firearms from a West Kelowna home on Tuesday

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

Okanagan man accused of attacking two young boys back in court

Brian Lamb will remain behind bars until at least Oct. 14

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Most Read