On Thursday, Dec. 14 the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which were set by former President Barack Obama's administration in 2015. This vote means the government will no longer regulate internet providers from blocking websites or charging people service fees for high-speed Internet. The vote was clearly not unanimous, as a video of FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who was part of the vote, expressing her dismay with the results clearly shows. (The final vote was 3-2.) Clyburn referred to the FCC as an "agency that is supposed to protect you," but is "actually abandoning you." She went on to say, "I am pleased to be able to say to you today that the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. The agency does not have the final word thank goodness for that."
Clyburn, who is the longest-serving FCC commissioner, has strongly opposed FCC chairman Ajit Pai on matters of protected, open internet access and communication for marginalized and disabled Americans who would feel the direct affects if net neutrality was repealed. Clyburn has argued that the internet will be handed over to the rich if net neutrality is dismantled. In her dissent on Thursday, she threw Pai's 2015 words back at him, which you can see in this clip:
"I actually take what I'll just call ironic comfort in the word of then-commissioner Pai back in 2015, because I believe this will ring true about this destroying internet freedom order," Clyburn said in her dissenting remarks. "'I am optimistic,' he said, 'that we will look back on today's vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan path that has served us so well. I don't know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered.' Amen to that, Mr. Chairman. Amen to that."
As she concluded her remarks, Pai made a joke about her vote, laughing.
Clyburn's dissenting remarks in full speak to her apparent disgust with Thursday's vote to repeal the Obama-era rules. She said that it's now "the new norm at the FCC, a norm where the majority ignores the will of the people."
Clyburn noted that she and the FCC had received "millions" of letters, comments, and calls about the vote, but that those public comments were not included in the order. "That speaks volumes about the direction the current majority is heading, this FCC is heading. And that speaks volumes about just who is being heard at the FCC," she said.
"Particularly damning is what today’s repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage," Clyburn said in her net neutrality vote remarks. She explained that the story of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, rose to the public's attention because of social media — i.e. the internet. Additionally, she noted, the internet is vital for the secure messaging platforms that allow activists to communicate and organize safely. And it's not just serious issues — the internet also allows for entertainment that had been "repeatedly rejected by mainstream distribution and media outlets" to thrive.
A decision like this is expected to have significant effects on the public's interaction with the internet. Without the FCC's regulations, the future of the open internet is handed, with great power, to major internet-service providers and companies that could dictate what Americas have access to. Clyburn claims the fight for net neutrality does not end on Thursday, despite the results of the vote. It's unclear when the FCC will begin implementing the repeal, so use your internet freedom while you still can.