Following some seriously heated debate, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to kill the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules in the U.S.
The vote happened today (December 14), with the FCC voting 3-2 in favour of repealing the previously imposed net-neutrality protections in place south of the border. The former rules were initially introduced by the Obama administration in 2015.
While a complicated issue, the FCC's new rules could bring major change to the internet in the U.S. with corporate giants like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon now able to speed up, slow down, and even ban certain websites and apps — acts they were all previously barred from under the old rules. As a result many critics have viewed the new change as a very real attack on free speech.
As Billboard reports, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — the Republican who said it was his plan to eliminate what he views as unnecessary regulation — called the internet the "greatest free-market innovation in history." He added that it "certainly wasn't heavy-handed government regulation" that's been responsible for the internet's "phenomenal" development. "Quite the contrary," he said.
"What is the FCC doing today?" he asked. "Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence."
He went on to argue that internet service providers in the U.S. will now have stronger incentives to build networks, adding that the new rules will create a "free, more open internet."
"The sky is not falling, consumers will remain protected and the internet will continue to thrive," Pai said.
Despite these assurances, supporters of net neutrality plan to launch legal challenges.