FCC votes to end net neutrality

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to repeal net neutrality rules that guaranteed a free and open internet.

Today's vote sees the FCC roll back rules put into place two years ago. Under the Obama-era regulations, a Title II common carrier classification was placed on ISPs, making it illegal to throttle, block or otherwise discriminate any kind of internet traffic, including through paid prioritization.

With today's vote, the Title II classification is stripped. In its place, a Title I classification has been restored, which means the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, has jurisdiction over broadband consumer protection.

The FCC commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, has been a staunch advocate for repealing the regulations.

Critics of rescinding the rules argue ISPs can now play favorites with apps and websites, in effect deciding what consumers see online. Supporters argue the experience won't change for consumers, while also contending that removing regulations will foster innovation and network investment from ISPs thanks to a "light-touch regulatory framework."

  • VPNs can actually allow you to get around Net Neutrality controls set by ISPs. Here is a list of the best VPN providers we've tested.

It's not over yet

Many of the biggest tech companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, previously spoke out in support of net neutrality. Content providers are virtually unanimous in their support of a free and open internet as it allows them to serve their content to the most users with the best possible experience.

Following today's vote, several of those same firms spoke out again, including Netflix and Twitter, as well as advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Each vowed to fight back against repealing net neutrality, suggesting this is the beginning of a lengthier legal battle.

From a business perspective, any kind of internet restriction could limit views on web pages and apps, harming companies that rely on those figures.

Yet it's consumers who will bear the brunt of today's decision if ISPs begin throttling internet speeds and restricting access to certain apps and websites if content providers don't pay a fee. 

While the FCC's vote today is a blow to net neutrality, the battleground now shifts to the courtroom.