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Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality rules

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal marks a victory for internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access.

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Democrats, Hollywood and companies like Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Consumer advocates and trade groups representing content providers have planned a legal challenge aimed at preserving those rules.

The meeting was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after sniffer dogs checked the room.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in the run-up to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers.

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“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success,” he said on Thursday.

The FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the rules.

Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes resulting from the rule change, but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

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Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but that they may engage in paid prioritization. They say consumers will see no change and argue that the largely unregulated internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Meredith Mazzilli)

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Marsha Blackburn roasted for sliming Lt Col Vindman for testifying: ‘You need to be removed from office’

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On Thursday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned the patriotism of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, suggesting that his testimony against President Donald Trump only served to "badmouth and ridicule" America "in front of Russia."

Adam Schiff is hailing Alexander Vindman as an American patriot.

How patriotic is it to badmouth and ridicule our great nation in front of Russia, America’s greatest enemy?

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Trump prosecuted for ‘flagrantly’ abusing power and violating his oath during impeachment trial

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Democrats told President Donald Trump's impeachment trial Thursday that he openly and dangerously abused his powers to gain political advantage.

House impeachment managers laid out the evidence for the first of two articles of impeachment against the US leader in the second day of arguments, methodically dismantling Republican claims that Trump did nothing wrong in soliciting electoral help from Ukraine last year.

As the 100 senators sat as jurors, the prosecutors played old videos in which two of the president's closest defenders said that abuse of power is a clear impeachable offense, puncturing a key White House argument that the US constitution requires a specific crime to remove a president.

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Three American firefighters killed fighting unprecedented bushfires in Australia

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Three American crew helping to battle Australia's devastating bushfires were killed Thursday when their water-bombing plane crashed in mountainous terrain during a sortie to tackle another outbreak of the deadly blazes.

Officials said the Hercules C-130 plane erupted in a large fireball on impact in a national park the Snowy Mountains shortly before 1:30 pm (0230 GMT).

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons had said earlier in the day that high winds were making flying the water tankers "very difficult".

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