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UPDATE: FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules In 3-2 Vote

UPDATE, DEC. 14, 1:43 P.M. ET: The Federal Communications Commission approved the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote. The move to dismantle regulations created to keep internet open to all no matter the content,  have many within the commercial real estate industry worried about future innovation and startup growth in the industry. The Republican-led FCC said it wants to limit government oversight of the internet, claiming the regulations stifle investment in broadband infrastructure. The net neutrality fight will likely move to court next to be challenged by advocacy groups in favor of the rules before heading to Congress.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The real estate industry is rallying against the Federal Communications Commission's plan to roll back regulations that aim to keep the internet open and easily accessible to all.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revealed plans on Tuesday to repeal net neutrality laws enacted in 2015 under former President Barack Obama. The regulations call for internet providers to treat all data on the internet the same — this prohibits providers like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon from making some websites faster than others, charging users more to access certain content on the internet or making some websites more easily accessible for consumers than others. 

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement, the New York Times reports. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

The real estate community immediately set out to make its concerns known. The National Association of Realtors wrote a letter to the FCC in July asking lawmakers to protect open internet access that drives industrywide innovation and economic growth in the country. 

“Real estate is the foundation of wealth building for the middle class and a critical link in the flow of goods and services and income for millions of Americans … Streaming video, Voice over Internet Protocol, mobile applications, drone photography and Internet of Things (IOT) enabled smart devices are commonly used technologies in our businesses today,” NARs President William E. Brown wrote. “In the future, new technologies, like virtual reality and telepresence among others, will be available that will no doubt require open internet access. Simply stated, network access free from discriminatory behavior has become fundamental to our members’ ability to do business in today’s digital economy.”

Access to high-speed internet is paramount for real estate companies and brokers. The industry has benefited greatly from tech innovations over the years, but a repeal could set small mom-and-pop companies and startups back in several ways. It could allow internet providers to charge small businesses more for decent service, and they could charge consumers more to access said content on their websites. 

Critics worry revised net neutrality regulations could turn internet accessibility into a pay-for-play service, similar to cable companies that offer multitiered packages, Inman reports. The end result would divide the level of service a company is able to provide online — the more a company is able to pay, the better their platform and more accessible it will be for users. 

“Removing the framework that prevents internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from slowing down and blocking websites, or charging apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience is in direct conflict with our mission to make housing data more transparent and easily accessible,” Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richards wrote in a post Tuesday.

A committee will vote on the repeal Dec. 14.