The Federal Communications Commission's Republican majority voted on Thursday to kill net neutrality rules, ignoring pleas from Republican lawmakers to delay or cancel the vote.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Independent Sen. Angus King, both of Maine, joined Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., in calling on the federal agency to "hold hearings on the net neutrality issue" that has "significant implications for our entire economy, and therefore merits the most thorough, deliberate, and thoughtful process that can be provided."
But on Thursday, the FCC panel voted along party lines, 3-2, to relax rules on internet service providers. The panel's two Democrats voted no on rolling back the rules, while the panel's three Republicans voted yes. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, joined his Republican colleagues on the vote. The rules were first implemented under former President Barack Obama.
The ruling is a major victory for telecom corporations who have endlessly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying for the rules to be done away with. Consumers as well as a free an open internet, are the ones to suffer as a result.
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler slammed Thursday's decision. "Trump FCC executed the network companies’ playbook to perfection," he wrote in a blog. "The agency responsible for oversight of the nation’s essential networks has disavowed responsibility for the most important network of the 21st century."
While Democrats have been outspoken about the issue, and have asked for investigations into reports of fake comments during the public input period, Republicans — aside from a few — have remained quiet.
"Repealing the FCC's net neutrality rules will undermine longstanding protections that have ensured the open internet as a powerful and transformative platform of innovation and economic opportunity," Collins' letter said. "We are concerned about the proposed order's impact on the free market that has driven growth in our economy for years, and the potential adverse effect on rural America's ability to realize the internet's full potential."
The letter continued, "Net neutrality has ensured that the internet has been a level playing field leading to the online entrepreneurial explosion unparalleled in American history, changing nearly every facet of Americans' lives and bringing efficiency to every market in our economy."
"We respectfully ask that the Commission cancel the vote on the proposed order as scheduled and give Congress and the FCC the time to hold public hearings in 2018 in order to investigate the best way to ensure citizens and our economy have strong net neutrality protections that guarantee consumer choice, free markets, and continued growth."
The creator of the worldwide web has even weighed in on the issue, warning of the dangers of unraveling a free, open and equal internet for all.