The net neutrality vote by the Federal Communications Commission started on a dramatic note as participants were forced to evacuate for security purposes. The proposal to end the net still passed in a 3-2 vote after the fact. FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, told the 5 commissioners and members of the audience that, “on advice of security, we need to take a brief recess.” Journalists and attendants were asked to leave the hearing just moments before the final decision was made. Leaving their personal items behind, law enforcement swept the room with canines for several minutes before allowing guests to return. The reasoning behind this abrupt pause is unclear but the Washington Post’s live feed shows they were looking for something, anything, that could’ve been a threat.
Reporters were pushed out into the hallway while commission members of the FCC were escorted through the back exit. Once they were given the green light to return, Pai went back on the stand and apologized for the delay saying, “Sorry for the interruption. We were acting on the recommendation of the Federal Protective Service. But we can now reconvene…Where was I?” After he wrapped up his speech, the hearing continued resulting in the repeal of net neutrality. Following the decision Pai told NBC that:
Prior to 2015, before these regulations were imposed, we had a free and open internet. That is the future as well under a light touch, market-based approach. Consumers benefit, entrepreneurs benefit. Everybody in the internet economy is better off with a market based approach.
However, not everyone concurs with the chairman’s logic. Democrat commission member, Jessica Rosenworcel said that this “rash decision” places the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.” Another Democrat member, Mignon L. Clyburn said the vote is “particularly damning … for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate.”
This is not good. Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online. -FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel
Moreover, they have been vocally critical about the FCC’s public feedback period that proceeded the hearing claiming the commission neglected a number of comments advocating for a free and open internet.
It is abundantly clear why we see so much bad process with this item: because the fix was already in -FCC Commissioner Clyburn
This follows a contentious accusation by New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, saying that millions of “comments” in support of ending net neutrality on FCC’s website were fraudulent. As of now, the commission is not cooperating with the investigation.
This is a major turning point in our nation’s history that has the potential to dramatically change how we communicate, absorb entertainment and information on the net. These controversies surrounding the FCC’s ethical integrity will probably come to light in the form of lawsuits but the decision to end the free net stands as is…for now.
The reason for this abrupt evacuation during the hearing is still unclear and the story will develop as we hear more on the matter.