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UPDATE 4-U.S. regulators ditch net neutrality rules as legal battles loom

UPDATE 4-U.S. regulators ditch net neutrality rules as legal battles loom
From Reuters - December 14, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pais proposal marked 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 Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Consumer advocates and trade groups representing content providers have planned a legal challenge aimed at preserving those rules.

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement he will lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the reversal. He called the vote a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet.

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.

Shares of Alphabet, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp moved lower after the vote.

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

The internet wasnt broken in 2015.We werent 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.

The FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the rules.

NEXT STEPS

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.

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