The future of how the internet is regulated may be decided this week.
The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a controversial plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections. The repeal is expected to pass on a party-line vote.
The rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, were intended to keep the internet open and fair. Internet service providers like Comcast (CCVCL) and Verizon (VZ) were explicitly prohibited from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.
Under the new proposal, the FCC would do away with rules barring internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to online content. The FCC would also eliminate a rule barring providers from prioritizing their own content.
Ajit Pai, the chairman appointed to run the FCC by President Trump, has been an longtime critic of the net neutrality rules. Last month, he pitched his repeal proposal as a way stop the federal government from “micromanaging the internet.”
Pai’s plan has been praised by the telecom industry, which argues the earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. But the repeal plan has been loudly criticized by numerous technology companies and consumer advocacy groups.
The concern among net neutrality advocates is that the repeal could give internet providers too much control over how online content is delivered. It may also make it harder for the next generation of online services to compete, if they have to pay up to be placed in a so-called internet fast lane.