Internet freedom in the US took a critical blow as the FCC has voted 3-2 to repeal network neutrality.
It is the outcome many feared, but so many had expected. If there was any hope for some last minute deal or last minute drama, it was never forthcoming. Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the rules that have protected the open Internet.
The move ran up against fierce opposition. Even early on this month, many American’s from all walks of life voiced their opposition to the move. Many were hoping to stop the vote altogether. Unfortunately, Ajit Pai not only ignored the calls to have the vote delayed, but even openly ridiculed his fellow American’s as “desperate“.
As the days wound down to the vote, American’s made one last push. Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the very regulator Internet opponents claimed would be up to the task of protecting network neutrality got involved. One of their commissioners came out against the move. The opposition was also laced with worry that when they are not able to handle protecting the open Internet, that they would be to blame even though it would be more of a case of being set up for failure.
The final push to stop or slow down the vote continued with founders of Apple and the Internet itself working the halls of the American government. Celebrities also came on board to lend their voices to the cause. Even big names in the international community voiced their concerns over what this could mean.
Still, in spite of the country (and the world for that matter) saying this is a bad move, FCC chairman Ajit Pai forged ahead and even openly mocked the protests of American’s everywhere.
That leads us to today when the vote occurred. Outside of the FCC, protesters lined the street to voice their dismay over the imminent vote. Meanwhile, inside the FCC, Ajit Pai marched ahead in spite of the wide spread opposition and lead the expected 3-2 vote. From Tech Crunch:
As expected, the vote was 3 to 2 along party lines, with Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the order, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting against.
Clyburn and Rosenworcel made their feelings known at the meeting with some fierce remarks on the order and the procedures leading up to it:
“I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you. But what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”
“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
As Tech Crunch points out, this does not necessarily mean the end of network neutrality yet. The order has to be entered into the federal registry first which is expected to take place next year. Still, it does put the wheels in motion to allow the American ISPs to do what they wish with what flows through their networks. Then, there is the issue of lawsuits being filed to put a stop to all of this. It is unclear what effect that has on the Internet.
What we do know is that this places the United States as an outlier on the world stage. Many countries around the world do support network neutrality in various forms. Some international observers also view the United States as a backwards nation thanks in part to the latest move. It has already caused a lot of harm to the countries reputation. In addition to this, some online innovators from other countries may find themselves thinking twice before taking their creations to the United States. This is thanks to the uncertainty the lack of any rules at all regarding the flow of information causes. Some international observers also fear what this could mean for information flowing across the border into the US.
Still, the only positive in all of this is that the changes won’t be happening over night. Still, it will be the first big step into a huge decline for the Americans.