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The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 on Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections.
Net neutrality, a series of Obama-era protections, require internet service providers to treat all data equally, preventing ISPs from charging more for certain services, or restricting access to certain content.
Those rules have won vocal support from free speech advocates and internet users—and staunch opposition from internet companies like Verizon, which could increase profits throttling online content and charging more for individual internet services.
Internet service providers hit the legislative jackpot when the Trump administration appointed a Republican-majority leadership to the FCC and installed former Verizon general counsel Ajit Pai as the commission’s chair.
Under the new rules, companies like Comcast could slow access to competitors, effectively making sites aligned with the company—or ones who pay their way out of slow lanes—appear to load faster. Over 56 million American households have no choice in internet service providers in their area, leaving them potentially tethered to an artificially slow internet under the new rules.
In their testimonies on Thursday, which were briefly interrupted by a bomb threat, the Republican FCC members dismissed their opponents as hysterical.
“The legend of a cable company trying to break the internet makes scary bedtime stories for children of telecom geeks, but it is not reality,” Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in defense of his vote for repeal.
Pai defended internet fast lanes by likening them to promoted tweets and advertisements, which are legal. “What else are promoted tweets but prioritization?” Pai asked.
O’Rielly characterized some net neutrality advocates as being too mean, complaining that some commenters told him he looked “like a potato.” Some of the pro-Republican comments were forged in the name of dead Americans, and are currently under investigation by attorneys general in 19 states.
The FCC’s GOP majority has largely ignored the fraud complaints and calls to delay the vote.
His comments echo Pai’s previous criticisms of net neutrality advocates, whom he mocked as “desperate.”
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