FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations

Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines Tuesday to reaffirm its order rolling back net neutrality regulations in response to a request from the courts. 

The commission voted 3-2 in a decision reaffirming the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, with Chairman Ajit Pai (R), who voted with the majority, arguing the order promotes public safety and facilitates broadband infrastructure deployment. 

Republican commissioners Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Carr voted in favor of reaffirming the order, while Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks dissented. 

Rosenworcel said the FCC’s vote “doubled down on the mess it made.” 

The FCC voted along party lines in 2017 to repeal the rules prohibiting broadband companies from blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain websites, rolling back net neutrality regulations put in place under former President Obama. 

The order voted on Tuesday leaves the FCC’s net neutrality position unchanged, but it responds to issues raised by the D.C. Circuit Court in a case reviewing the 2017 order. 

In a ruling last year, the court asked the FCC to evaluate the order’s effects on public safety, on the ability to regulate pole attachments and on the ability to support broadband. 

Pai, in a blog post ahead of Tuesday’s vote, said after reviewing input on the issues he is “confident that the regulatory framework we set forth in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order appropriately and adequately addresses each issue.”

The commission’s decision was quickly criticized by Democratic lawmakers. 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, vowed to continue to fight for net neutrality and said the FCC’s vote will lead to broadband providers raising prices and causing issues for families and small businesses, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The FCC’s vote today to double down on repealing net neutrality and ignore its impact on public safety, universal access, and broadband competition continues to fly in the face of the reality that Americans confront today — the urgent need for access to reliable and affordable broadband free of corporate control,” Markey said in a statement. 

“Without net neutrality protections, it’s just a matter of time before big broadband providers start raising prices, slowing down internet speeds, and making it harder for families, small business, and students to access the opportunities to recover and rebuild from this pandemic. I will not rest until net neutrality is back on the books,” he added. 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) similarly slammed the vote, saying it prioritizes “profits over people.” 

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said the decision ignores real-life concerns for Americans. 

The decision could be reversed by a new FCC chair, which is a possibility if Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeats President Trump in the presidential election next week.

Tags Ajit Pai Donald Trump Ed Markey FCC’s federal communications commision Jeff Merkley Joe Biden Mazie Hirono Net neutrality

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