Tensions High at the FCC

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for an FCC meeting where they will vote on net neutrality, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for an FCC meeting where they will vote on net neutrality, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The FCC’s 3-2 vote to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules on Thursday created tension on the panel as members voted along party lines, with Republican members voting to scrap the rules and Democrats opposing. While they lost the vote, both Democratic commissioners made impassioned statements about their outrage with the move and disappointment with the decision in their closing remarks. But FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took an especially ominous tone her remarks at the hearing with a prescient warning on the possible outcome of Thursday’s vote.

“What saddens me the most today is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you,” she said. “As I close my eulogy of our 2015 net neutrality rules, carefully crafted rules that struck an appropriate balance in providing consumer protections and enabling opportunities and investment, I take ironic comfort in the words of then-Commissioner Pai from 2015, because I believe this will ring true about this Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” Clyburn said. “I am optimistic, that we will look back on today’s vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan path, that has served us so well. I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered.”

But the battle isn’t over. According to TechCrunch, the net neutrality rules won’t change automatically. They’ll first need to be entered into the federal register, which could take up to a few months. However, obstacles are still ahead for the FCC. Following the vote, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Thursday he would lead a multi-state legal challenge, along
with at least two other state law enforcement officials. Ultimately, the question may need to be settled through legislation, and the upcoming 2018 elections are likely to have a strong bearing on the outcome.