The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a controversial plan to end net neutrality on Thursday. The Republican-led commission will consider a proposal to repeal Title II classifications currently prohibiting internet providers from being able to block or throttle internet access or establish paid fast lanes. So, how can you watch the net neutrality vote? Thankfully, there's the internet for that.
The FCC's net neutrality vote is being live-streamed on the government agency's website, enabling all those concerned to watch it happen live. Thursday's FCC meeting is scheduled to run for about two hours beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET. While net neutrality isn't the only item on the FCC's docket this Thursday, expect the issue and the vote to take up a fair amount of the meeting. Moreover, the issue of net neutrality may not even end with Thursday's FCC vote. Rather, as CNN has pointed out, the issue could end up being settled in court or by congressional legislation.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has long criticized net neutrality, arguing the regulations impede broadband investment and serve to "micromanage" the internet. Critics of the proposal to end net neutrality protections, however, fear it could hand internet providers far too much control, enabling them to block or slow users' access to certain content.
Of the five members that make up the FCC, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel — the commission's two Democratic members — are the only ones that opposed the proposal to repeal net neutrality protections going into Thursday's meeting.
"I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules," Commissioner Rosenworcel said in a statement issued to reporters ahead of Thursday's meeting. "I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public."
In a statement of her own, Commissioner Clyburn said she was "outraged" the FCC was moving to hand "the keys to the internet" over to corporations that would place profits before people. "Each of us raised our right hands when we were sworn in as FCC Commissioners, took an oath and promised to uphold our duties and responsibilities 'to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination… a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges,'" Clyburn said in her statement. "Today the FCC majority officially abandons that pledge and millions have taken note."
But telecommunication giants like Comcast claim the net neutrality debate has been full of distorted and biased information and that customers won't actually see any changes to their internet access if the regulations are repealed.
"There's no question that an open Internet is important," Comcast's Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen said in a blog post published by the company Wednesday. "There is also no doubt that investment is essential to fostering technological growth... Light touch regulation allows for more competition in the marketplace and increased investment and innovation."
But while Comcast has argued a repeal of net neutrality protections will restore internet freedom, many customers don't appear convinced. Protests to preserve net neutrality unfolded online and in the streets in cities across the United States this week in the lead up to Thursday's FCC vote.
Net neutrality regulations won't disappear overnight should the FCC vote to repeal them. Rather, this fight will likely continue into the new year as advocacy groups like Free Press have vowed to challenge an FCC repeal in court.