May 19 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission has voted to move forward with Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken net neutrality protections by ending "utility-style regulation" of the Internet.
In 2015, the FCC under President Barack Obama supported the Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act -- meaning the FCC had the power to regulate the Internet.
Under the contested FCC rules to "protect the open Internet," cable companies are not allowed to charge websites more for faster loading times and no content can be blocked. The rules also apply to data services for mobile devices. A repeal would nix those provisions.
"The FCC proposes to return to the bipartisan framework that preserved a flourishing free and open Internet for almost 20 years," the agency said in a statement.
The agency voted 2-1 to move forward with the plan, starting a public comment period that must occur before the FCC can move forward with the repeal.
Those who support Pai's plan, including Republicans and broadband providers, argue the 2015 regulation is an FCC regulatory overreach that has prevented investment and innovation in broadband infrastructure and has harmed customers.
Those who oppose the proposal argue lobbyists from the telecommunications industry are pushing the FCC to end the Open Internet Order's net neutrality protections.
"While the majority engages in flowery rhetoric about light-touch regulation and so on, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a wholescale destruction of the FCC's public interest authority in the 21st century," Mignon Clyburn, the only Democrat in the FCC panel, said in her dissent.
In March, more than 170 organizations signed an open letter urging Pai to safeguard net neutrality.