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As Net Neutrality vote looms, critics cite importance of 'free, open internet'

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The FCC is just hours away from voting to repeal landmark net neutrality rules established under President Obama. Critics say at stake is "a free and open internet." (KGO-TV)

The FCC is just hours away from voting to repeal landmark net neutrality rules established under President Obama. Critics say at stake is "a free and open internet."

RELATED: Silicon Valley giants oppose FCC plan to repeal net neutrality

Despite public outcry, there appear to be enough votes to repeal so-called net neutrality which would be a huge victory for the Trump-appointed FCC chair who has long been a champion of shedding regulations.

Three out of five FCC commissioners have said they will vote to revoke rules the rules that most Americans support, but big telecom companies hate.

Which means if the vote goes as expected, companies like AT&T and Comcast will be allowed to block or slow internet traffic.

"So you're not going to see anything right away, obviously," said Jeremy Gillula, a senior staff technologist at the Electric Frontier Foundation. "It's not like tomorrow a switch is going to flip."

He says eventually, the repeal of net neutrality will affect just about everyone, from companies to consumers.

RELATED: What is net neutrality?

"You might see your internet provider say, 'If you want to access Facebook, we're going to charge you extra to access Facebook' or 'If you want to access social media, in general, it's going to cost extra,'" said Gillula.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is spearheading the repeal and calls the criticism against his plan, "hysteria."

In a tweet, Pai said the FCC is closing the digital divide through more investment in high-speed infrastructure.

But internet and phone service provider Sonic isn't buying it. The Santa Rosa-based company says it won't be taking advantage of the expected rule changes.

"That's philosophically against what we stand for. We have always had a free and open internet. We will always have a free and open internet. That is something we fundamentally believe in, said Tara Sharp, Sonic's head of marketing.

Protests are expected before Thursday's vote and if the vote goes down as expected, a number of organizations have promised to sue.

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