NEW YORK – Regulators began dismantling Obama-era net neutrality rules with a vote on Thursday, opening the way to fewer restrictions on broadband providers and raising web companies’ fears they’ll face barriers to reaching customers.
The Federal Communications Commission in a 2-1 Republican-led vote gave preliminary approval to Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to replace rules passed in 2015 by Democrats. Pai wants to remove strong legal authority that critics say over-regulates telephone and cable providers, and that defenders say is needed to enforce fair treatment of web traffic.
The action begins months of consideration leading to a second, conclusive vote.
“Today, we propose to repeal utility-style regulation of the internet,” said Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump.
Mignon Clyburn, the agency’s sole Democrat, offered what she called a vociferous dissent, calling the proposal “a political rush job.” The action “jeopardizes the ability of the open internet to function,” Clyburn said.
“Will any of the open internet rules survive this rulemaking? I am doubtful,” Clyburn said.
The embattled net neutrality rules bar internet service providers such as AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. from blocking or slowing some web traffic in favor of other content — their own or a paying customer’s. The prospect of changing the rules produced a public outpouring, with the FCC registering more than 1.6 million emailed comments — many after TV comedian…
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