Democratic members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave blistering dissent speeches on Thursday as the agency voted in favor of repealing net neutrality rules.
Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn railed on the FCC for establishing a “new norm” in which the agency ignores the will of the public.
A study, commissioned by a group representing telecommunications firms, found that most of the millions of public comments filed on the proposal to scrap net neutrality were in support of preserving the Obama-era rules.
Prior to the vote, state attorneys general, congressional Democrats and Democratic FCC commissioners also pushed for the vote to be delayed over the volume of fake comments, which they said diluted and undermined public discourse.
Clyburn also gave dim forecasts for the fate of the internet after the net neutrality rules were scrapped.
“A soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the internet — the internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime — over to a handful of multibillion-dollar corporations,” she argued.
“As a result of today’s misguided action, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new power from this agency. They will have the power to block websites, throttle services and censor online content,” echoed Clyburn’s fellow Democratic commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel.
The two argued against broadband companies, currently under the regulatory jurisdiction of the FCC, being regulated by the arguably weaker authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Such firms will have less incentive adhere to net neutrality principles of treating all content on the internet equally, Clyburn contended.
“We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all that is left is a broadband provider’s toothy grin and those oh so comforting words: 'We have every incentive to do the right thing,' ” she said.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who lead the Republican plan to roll back the regulations, sat stone-faced as Clyburn delivered her remarks. Across the room, his chief of staff, Matthew Berry, beamed after the months-long plan that Pai’s office had tirelessly worked on came to fruition.
Pai and other Republicans have long argued that the net neutrality rules are an example of onerous government regulation that stifles the broadband industry. He has claimed that repealing such rules would usher in a new age of renewed investment and freedom for broadband companies.