The Federal Communications Committee in a 3-2 vote reversed the FCC’s 2015 action that classified the internet as a public utility, effectively removing legislation that regulated how internet service providers were allowed to prioritize or monetize internet traffic, colloquially known as net neutrality.
The repeal will have a significant impact on any business that uses the web, and some local businesspeople and lawmakers believe the magnitude of the change could create a chilling effect.
“I don’t know any business who thinks this is pro-business, they say it’s the opposite,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ 6th District).
Net neutrality had been law since 2015 when the FCC voted to classify the internet as a Title II utility under the Communications Act of 1934. That gave the commission the authority to regulate internet service providers as utilities or “common carriers.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, formerly associate general counsel for Verizon Communications, introduced a proposal to repeal that classification, in effect ending net neutrality, due to a concern that investment in internet infrastructure had slowed in the last two years.
Proponents of net neutrality argued that revoking its protection would allow internet service providers to enact anti-competitive business tactics.
“As a result of today's misguided action, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new powers. They will have the power to block websites, the power to throttle services and the power to censor online content," said Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two FCC commissioners who voted against the decision.
Opponents of net neutrality argued that these concerns are unfounded.
“The main complaint about the internet is not, and has never been their ISP blocking content, it's that they don’t have access at all, or not enough competition,” said Pai in his statement before the vote. “These regulations have ironically taken us in the opposite direction of these consumer preferences.”