The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules meant to stop broadband companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who put forth the planned repeal and voted in favor of it Thursday, said it “certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation” that made the internet the “greatest free-market innovation in history.”
“Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence,” he said.
The proposal will roll back restrictions that keep broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or collecting tolls from services they don't like and bars states from imposing their own rules.
The broadband industry promised that the internet experience wouldn't change despite Thursday's vote, but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn these rules. Protests have erupted online and in the streets as Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.
Pai said Thursday that the change will encourage broadband providers to build networks, especially in underserved areas.
“The sky is not falling," Pai said. "Consumers will remain protected and the internet will continue to thrive."
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the rule repeal, calling the proposal a "fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling, destroying-internet-freedom order."
"The public can plainly see that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC is handing the keys to the internet -- the internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling investigations of our lifetime -- over to a handful of multibillion-dollar corporations," Clyburn said.
One day before the vote, the attorneys general of 18 states asked the FCC to delay its vote as they and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigate reports of fraudulent comments made on the commission's notice of the rule change.
Schneiderman said Thursday that he plans to sue the FCC to keep net neutrality intact.
Schneiderman accused the FCC last month of stonewalling his office’s investigation into suspicious comments made in response to the commission’s net neutrality notice. Since then, Schneiderman said his office has gotten more than 5,000 complaints from people whose identities were used to submit fake comments to the FCC’s notice.
FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly dismissed the report, saying at Thursday's meeting that "we do not rely on such comments."
Schneiderman said Wednesday that his office has uncovered as many as 2 million comments that appeared to have used stolen identities.
In its letter to the FCC, the 18 other state attorneys general said they have received similar complaints. The letter, led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, was signed by the attorneys general of 17 other states: California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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