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US FCC Vote Repeals 2015 net neturality safeguards

Net neutrality took a hit as the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favour of rolling back the Obama-era protections that ensured a free and open Internet. This vote, which went 3-2 in favour of repealing net neutrality, was championed by Republican-appointed FCC Chairman h Pai, who has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy-handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers. This net neutrality vote sets up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape. For now though, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the US such as AT&T, Comcast Corp, and Verizon Communications have more power than ever over what content consumers can access.

The net neutrality vote is also the biggest win for Pai in his sweeping effort to undo many telecommunications regulations since taking over at the agency in January. Democrats, Hollywood and companies such as Google parent Alphabet and Facebook had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by US President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring ISPs from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The new rules give Internet service providers sweeping powers to change how consumers access the Internet but must have new transparency requirements that will require them to disclose any changes to consumers.

The meeting, held amid protests online and in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after law enforcement with sniffer dogs checked the room.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the administration "supports the FCC's efforts. At the same time, the White House certainly has and always will support a free and fair Internet."
Shares of Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft Corp moved lower after the vote.

The FCC said the rules would take effect in a few months after the White House Office of Management and Budget formally approves them.

With net neutrality, here's what changes
Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but may engage in paid prioritisation. They argue that the largely unregulated Internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly noted that self-driving vehicles and remotely monitored medical procedures may require Internet service and that their needs could be given priority "over cat videos."

O'Rielly said it is unlikely any Internet provider would voluntarily submit to a "PR nightmare" by "attempting to engage in blocking, throttling or improper discrimination. It is simply not worth the reputation cost."

Still, Democrats have pointed to polls showing a repeal is deeply unpopular and say they will prevail in protecting the rules, either in the courts or in US Congress.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said in a written dissent released on Thursday that the decision grants Internet providers "extraordinary new power" from the FCC.

"They have the technical ability and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate your Internet traffic," she said. "And now this agency gives them the legal green light to go ahead."

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