The votes were predictably split along party lines. Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr & Michael O’Rielly voted for the repeal and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn & Jessica Rosenworcel voted against it. The "Restoring Internet Freedom" order passed by the Federal Communications Commission removes the FCC as the regulator of broadband Internet, relegating that role to the Federal Trade Commission. The Democratic commissioners will soon publish more comprehensive dissenting statements which will detail the specific issues with today's order, and they may include possible avenues for future legal challenges against the order, which are expected to be forthcoming.
The overall framework of the FCC's plans is listed on the organization's website. It can be summarized in the following three points:
- Reinstate the "information service" classification of broadband Internet access service first established on a bipartisan basis during the Clinton Administration.
- Restore the determination that mobile broadband is not a "commercial mobile service" subject to heavy-handed regulation.
- Restore the authority of the nation's most experienced cop on the privacy beat – the Federal Trade Commission – to police the privacy practices of ISPs.
As with many things in government, today's vote does not mean that the new rules will immediately take effect. This was one of many steps along the way to getting the Obama-era net neutrality rules repealed, much like a vote that took place earlier this year in May. The rules must be entered into the federal register, a move that will likely take place sometime early next year. Of course, there's also the possibility of lawsuits delaying or outright halting the change in the rules. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has already announced his intention to file a lawsuit to challenge the FCC's decision.
There's also the possibility of Congress passing a law to either amend the Communications Act or create a new law entirely. While the FCC's rulemaking process has leeway in some respects, they have also been ordered to undertake specific action by Congress such as when the transition from analog to digital television was made. Despite today's FCC vote being a bit of a downer for net neutrality advocates, it will more than likely result in a change of venue from the FCC to the courts and Congress.
If you wish to take action on the case, we suggest contacting your local congressman about the matter and continuing to do so throughout the matter. Beyond legal challenges, the government could take action to reinstate these rules and making sure your voice is heard that you care about the topic is important.