The FCC commissioners voted three to two to repeal the landmark 2015 rules surrounding net neutrality.

Today marks a huge turning point in the future of the web. 

At a meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the watchdog’s commissioners voted three to two to repeal the landmark 2015 rules surrounding net neutrality. These rules stop internet service providers (ISPs) charging websites more for delivering certain services, which would ultimately be passed onto customers. 

The Commissioner of the FCC, Ajit Pai, wants to reclassify internet providers from “utilities” to “information companies” and this vote just took a worrying step in that direction. It means ISPs will be legally allowed to throttle speeds of content running across their network and potentially charge customers more for faster access. This will create a tiered internet and completely undermines the web’s openeness.

This chart, created by the US advocacy group People Demand Action, is a simple way of showing what the changes would mean

Ahead of today’s vote, analysis of public comments made on the FCC’s plan, used to gauge how people in the US view the proposals and which could ultimately sway members of the commission in their views, showed signs of fraud. A staggering two million were filed using stolen identities. 

“Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process — including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation.”

Some comments were even submitted using names of dead people.

Ahead of today’s vote, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and the Freepress Action Fund, teamed up to launch the #BreakTheInternet campaign. It is calling on all web users to show support against the FCC’s net neutrality plans.

The campaign wants people to contact congress in the first instance to object to the plans. It is then encouraging people to change their profile picture on Twitter, post a particular Story on Instagram, upload a #BreakTheInternet photo to Snapchat, change their relationship status on Facebook, add a new job position on LinkedIn, post threads on Reddit or embed the protest code on their own site. There is also a selection of banners and images, too. 

This protest followed a strongly worded letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, written last month by more than 200 tech companies including Reddit, Twitter, and Airbnb, appear to bemoan the proposals claiming: “Economic growth is possible because of the free and open internet. Our current net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers. With strong net neutrality protections, the internet is an open marketplace where any business can compete, allowing individuals to start companies easily, market their products across the country, and connect with customers anywhere worldwide.”

The letter was written on a Google Doc, though, which seemed a little odd, so Alphr contacted Reddit and Twitter to confirm it is legitimate.   

Following the vote, Mozilla tweeted: “We’re angry. But the fight isn’t over — because Congress can still act. You can tell Congress to stop.”

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that all online traffic should be treated equally whether it’s an email, a social-media post, a voice call, a shopping purchase or a YouTube video. It effectively means web access without restriction and discrimination, and it ensures that the internet remains free and open – not only by preventing broadband providers from blocking content but by stopping companies paying more to benefit from faster delivery. It is now seriously under threat in the US and some of the biggest names in tech are trying to save it.

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