FCC approves measure to dismantle net neutrality in 3-2 vote

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to dismantle so-called "net neutrality" regulations Dec. 14, The New York Times reports.

Established in 2015, the Obama-era rules commonly referred to as "net neutrality" prohibit broadband companies from prioritizing or blocking some content over others. The regulations also prevent internet service providers from charging additional fees for select capabilities, such as high-quality streaming.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, joined by two Republican commissioners in the Dec. 14 vote, released his proposal to reverse net neutrality rules Nov. 22. The proposal recommended the FCC employ "light-touch regulation" over internet service providers, dismantling the "heavy-handed" regulations he said discouraged broadband development.

"We are helping consumers and promoting competition," Mr. Pai, said before the vote, according to The New York Times. "Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas."

While some stakeholders, such as internet service providers AT&T and Verizon, agreed with Mr. Pai's assertion net neutrality hinders innovation, others worried the proposal would harm consumers and small businesses' access to the internet.

As an example, The Washington Post noted net neutrality rules prevented Verizon from prioritizing information from Yahoo — which it owns — or charging competing search engines, such as Google, extra fees to connect with Verizon customers. Under the new regulations, Verizon would be allowed to pursue these practices, so as long as the company disclosed its decision.

A draft of Mr. Pai's proposal released earlier this year garnered more than 22 million comments from stakeholders since he opened it to public feedback in May, according to Reuters.

In July, the American Academy of Family Physicians penned a letter to Mr. Pai, claiming the repeal may lead to unintended healthcare consequences, such as allowing broadband providers to restrict the flow of health information.

"The internet forms the backbone on which the healthcare industry is building capabilities for health information exchange," AAFP wrote. "Lack of health information exchange is literally life-threatening. It is paramount for the health and well-being of U.S. citizens that no barriers be placed hindering the free and open appropriate exchange of health information."

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