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WATCH LIVE: Open internet in peril as FCC votes on the future of net neutrality

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to rescind rules that were aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, as protesters gathered online and in front of FCC headquarters to oppose the change.

Watch live video, courtesy of ABC News, below:

Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal marks a victory for big internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc that opposed the regulations – popularly known as net neutrality rules – and gives them sweeping powers to decide what web content consumers can access.

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The move is opposed by Democrats, Hollywood and big internet companies like Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc, which had urged Pai not to rescind the rules. The rules bar broadband service providers from blocking or slowing access to content, or charging consumers more for certain content.

Once repealed, several state attorneys general have said they will work to oppose the FCC ruling, citing problems with comments made to the FCC during the public comment period. Other critics have said they will consider challenging what they consider to be weaker enforcement.

Online protesters included celebrities like “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill, while net neutrality supporters rallied in front of the FCC building in Washington ahead of the vote. Some Congress members were expected to attend the Washington protest before the vote.

The 2015 rules were intended to give consumers equal access to web content and prevent broadband providers from favoring their own content. Pai proposes allowing those practices as long as they are disclosed.

Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman who heads a trade group representing major cable companies and broadcasters, told reporters earlier in the week that internet providers would not block content because it would not make economic sense and consumers would not stand for it.

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“They make a lot of money on an open internet,” Powell said, adding it is “much more profitable” than a closed system. “This is not a pledge of good-heartedness, it’s a pledge in the shareholders’ interest.”

A University of Maryland poll released this week found that more than 80 percent of respondents opposed the proposal. The survey of 1,077 registered voters was conducted online by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland from Dec. 6-8.

Democrats have said the absence of rules would be unacceptable and that they would work to overturn the proposal if it is approved. Advocates of the net neutrality rules also plan a legal challenge.

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Pai’s proposal is “like letting the bullies develop their own playground rules,” said Democratic Senator Ed Markey.

Many Republicans back Pai’s proposal but want Congress to write net neutrality rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the FCC would “return the internet to a consumer-driven marketplace free of innovation-stifling regulations.”

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A group of nearly 20 state attorneys general asked the FCC to delay the vote until the issue of fake comments is addressed.

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

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How Democrats clean up the messes left by Republicans

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For decades, Democratic administrations have been cleaning up economic messes left to them by Republican administrations. Thanks to Donald Trump, they'll have to do so again.

Before diving in, we need to understand this one concept: the debt-to-GDP ratio.

The national debt is a meaningless number on its own. It's meaningful only as a percentage of the total economy, the GDP. Even if the debt grows, that's okay so long as the economy grows even faster. But if the reverse is true — if the economy is growing more slowly than the debt — we're in trouble.

With this in mind, let's go back to the 1980s. When Ronald Reagan took office, the national debt equaled just a little over 30 percent of the total economy. Then Reagan began cutting taxes and spending a huge amount on the military. By the time he left the White House, the debt-to-GDP ratio was nearly 50 percent. He viewed it as a way of "starving the beast" so future Democratic administrations would find it harder to fund programs for the poor and average working people.

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2020 Election

Sanders campaign manager accuses MSNBC of ‘constantly undermining’ Bernie: Fox News is ‘more fair’

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Faiz Shakir, the campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., claimed that right-leaning Fox News has treated the self-described democratic socialist "more fair" than left-leaning MSNBC.

"Fox is often yelling about Bernie Sanders' socialism, but they're still giving our campaign the opportunity to make our case in a fair manner, unlike MSNBC, which has credibility with the left and is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign," Shakir told Vanity Fair in an interview published Tuesday.

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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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