The FCC just scrapped net neutrality rules protecting a free and open internet

(NBC) - Net neutrality, the set of rules requiring internet service providers to treat all traffic as equal, is dead.

The five members of the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday 3-2 along party lines to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules, returning to a "light touch" approach and ending what Chairman Ajit Pai has called the federal government's "micromanaging" of the internet.

Image: Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is pushing to repeal net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era. Zach Gibson / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The end of net neutrality rules marks a huge victory for the big internet service providers. Depending on how they decide to act, the repeal could have massive implications for the way all Americans use the internet.

Just before the vote, the meeting was abruptly evacuated on Thursday afternoon "on advice of security," said Pai. The five commissioners and people watching the meeting were asked to evacuate and leave their belongings in the room. It was unclear what prompted the evacuation, which lasted several minutes.

During that time, a live feed showed several members of law enforcement walking around the room and what appeared to be a bomb sniffing canine. The meeting was re-adjourned at 1:02 pm ET.

The end of net neutrality rules will mark a huge victory for the big internet service providers. Depending on how they decide to act, the vote could have massive implications for the way you use the internet.

"Prior to 2015, before these regulations were imposed, we had a free and open internet," Pai told NBC News. "That is the future as well under a light touch, market-based approach. Consumers benefit, entrepreneurs benefit. Everybody in the internet economy is better off with a market based approach."

Timing of the vote

Net neutrality is one of seven items the FCC has on its agenda for the meeting, which is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, according to Kate Black, spokeswoman for Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. It's unclear whether net neutrality is the first item on the agenda. FCC meetings can last several hours, but Black said we can expect Chairman Pai and the commissioners to hold a press conference after the meeting.

The arguments for and against

In short, net neutrality rules treat the internet like a utility, helping to control what consumers are charged and ensuring there is no paid prioritization — where internet service providers would be free to create so-called fast and slow lanes, allowing them to choose whether to block or slow certain websites.

Many Silicon Valley giants support net neutrality rules and argue that without them, the internet service providers could become gatekeepers of information and ultimately hurt consumers.

 

Get the full story on NBCNews.com


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