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Net neutrality repealed by FCC in 3-2 vote; Schneiderman to challenge decision

The FCC overturned net neutrality rules on Thursday,

The FCC overturned net neutrality rules on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevill

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has vowed to lead a multi-state lawsuit challenging the repeal of net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal on Thursday.

The FCC decided 3-2 along party lines to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet.

"The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet," Schneiderman said in an emailed statement. "Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process."

The American Civil Liberties Union also pledged a court fight after the vote and a trade group representing companies like Facebook Inc and Google parent Alphabet Inc said it opposed the reversal and was weighing legal options.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal marks a victory for internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access.

Democrats, Hollywood and companies like Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

The meeting was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after sniffer dogs checked the room.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in the run-up to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers.

"The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success," he said on Thursday.

Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes resulting from the rule change, but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but that they may engage in paid prioritization. They say consumers will see no change and argue that the largely unregulated internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

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