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FCC Vote That Could Kill Net Neutrality Planned for December

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Next month, the Federal Communications Commission intends to vote on whether Obama-era rules mandating equitable treatment of web traffic will be eliminated, scaled back, or maintained, according to individuals familiar with the plan. The 2015 regulations effectively barred broadband providers from interfering with web traffic, preventing companies from intentionally favoring or hindering specific forms of traffic.

As reported by Bloomberg, many Republicans and broadband service providers, like AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., want to eliminate or pare down many of the rules regarding net neutrality, while Democrats and technology companies, like Facebook and Google, want to keep them intact.

Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman who was selected by President Donald Trump, initially proposed eliminating many of the rules and requested feedback from the public. The FCC received over 22 million comments in response.

Two people familiar with the planned vote, but chose to remain anonymous, stated that Pai intends for it to be held in December.

While the exact nature of what will be voted on isn’t fully known, one source said that Pai might call for largely removing the rules, except for key components that mandate broadband companies inform their customers about their associated practices, a decision that would be favored by service providers.

Broadband providers claim the current FCC rules are unnecessary and discourage investment, partially since companies can be subjected to a variety of complex regulations that may vary by state.

Technology companies assert the rules are vital for ensuring broadband providers don’t favor traffic associated with the business partners or harm traffic related to their competitors.

Last April, Pai also proposed that broadband companies no longer be classified as common carriers, which could remove the FCC’s authority over the providers and, therefore, the right to enforce net neutrality rules.

The proposal also weighed the option of lifting certain bans regarding the blocking of traffic or the creation of “fast lanes” that would those who pay more have access to faster speeds.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, an FCC Democrat, expressed concern that the agency was heading down a “destructive path” that could harm consumers.

“What consumers want is access to a free and open internet without fear of being throttled or assessed a toll by their broadband service provider,” said Clyburn.

The Trump White House is openly opposed to many of the net neutrality rules. A spokesman stated that the administration “supports the FCC’s efforts to roll back burdensome, monopoly-era regulations.”