As expected, the FCC voted today to repeal net neutrality rules. The agency’s five commissioners came down along party lines, with Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offering scathing dissenting opinions as their three Republican colleagues voted to kill the Obama-era regulations that restricted internet providers from making a whole host of destructive, profit-minded changes to how their customers see and experience the internet.
In defending their decision to repeal the rules, FCC chairperson Ajit Pai and the commission’s other Republican members offered the same reasoning they’ve been trotting out since Pai laid out his plan to dismantle net neutrality in November. They include such willfully naive arguments as, “Look, we don’t have any evidence that suggests respectable companies like Comcast and Verizon won’t abuse their ability to throttle your connection to websites they don’t like” and “Hey, we live in a free market, so if they do start chopping up the internet into cable TV-like packages and charging you premiums to access certain sectors of it, you can always go subscribe to some other company!” Never mind the fact that many Americans live in regions where the lack of competition in the telecommunication industry has made jumping ship to a better option costly, difficult, or even downright impossible.
On the other side of the vote, commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel lamented the FCC’s disgusting lack of care for what the American public, which is staunchly against repealing the regulations, had to say. Clyburn’s 20-minute statement, which you can read in its entirety here—was especially impassioned. She closed by quoting Pai’s remarks during the 2015 hearing that put net neutrality into place, where he called the vote a “temporary aberration” that would be overturned soon. “Amen to that, Mr. Chairman,” Clyburn added, to which Pai offered the historically smug response “I will mark you down as a no.”
The FCC’s vote to hand unfettered control of the internet over to telecom companies doesn’t mark the end of the net neutrality fight. While hilariously unlikely, Congress could intervene and order the FCC to overturn the decision. What’s more likely is that the decision goes to court. Several public-interest groups have already announced they’re looking into litigation, and a trade group that represents the likes of Google and Facebook told Reuters that it is currently “weighing our legal options.” In addition, New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman, whose office announced it found evidence of at least 2 million fake anti-net neutrality comments on the FCC’s website, has said he’s going to sue over the FCC’s decision. And if all else fails, we’ll just have to trust internet providers at their word. What could go wrong?