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FCC votes 3-2 to overhaul net neutrality regulatory regime

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FCC votes 3-2 to overhaul net neutrality regulatory regime

During an open meeting that was briefly halted due to security concerns, the Federal Communications Commission approved a major overhaul to its net neutrality regulations in a party-line vote on Dec. 14.

The commission voted 3-2 to adopt FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's order overturning the Open Internet Order of 2015. The new order, which will go into effect in early 2018, reclassifies broadband as a Title I service under the Communications Act, giving the FCC less regulatory authority over the service. Pai's order also eliminates the commission's previous net neutrality rules, which prohibited network operators from blocking or throttling legal internet traffic, or prioritizing certain traffic in exchange for payment.

Under the newly adopted order, broadband providers will be subject to a transparency rule requiring them to publicly disclose if and when traffic is blocked, throttled or prioritized. The Federal Trade Commission will monitor and take enforcement actions against any anti-competitive or deceptive business practices.

The proceeding has generated controversy. Net neutrality proponents say the 2015 order is essential to preserving a free and open internet. Pai and others who supported the new rules argue overturning the 2015 order will eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens and encourage greater investment in deployment of broadband services.

As of Dec. 14, nearly 23.7 million public comments were filed in the FCC proceeding, including 21.7 million comments submitted as part of the official comment and reply comment period. Net neutrality proponents pointed to the number of comments as a sign of the public's interest in the issue, though there have also been questions raised about the legitimacy of many of the comments. Pew Research Center found that of the 21.7 million comments filed between April 27 and Aug. 30, roughly 57% used either duplicate or temporary email addresses.

Shortly before the vote, the FCC's meeting room had to be cleared "on the advice of security," according to Pai. It was not immediately clear what prompted the concern, though police dogs were brought in to search the room.

More details to follow.