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Robin Groulx / Axios

The long-anticipated rollback of net neutrality rules has officially begun. The FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to formally consider Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap the legal foundation for the rules and to ask the public for comments on the future of prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

Why it matters: This is the next step in the decade-long political fight over how to regulate the networks that have redefined politics, culture and the economy. Silicon Valley and telecom giants have opposing views of how web traffic should be treated on the way to reaching consumers — an increasing issue now that digital content is supplanting nearly every other format. The FCC has already been flooded with heated comments from both sides of the battle.

What's next:

  • The FCC will take comments from the public about the proposal, setting up a final vote that Pai has said he hopes will come later this year. That could be complicated if Democrat Mignon Clyburn leaves the commission when her term ends in June. With only two members, the commission would lack a quorum.
  • Expect significant pushback from Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups, who were out in force protesting the proposal before Thursday's FCC meeting.
  • Congressional Republicans hope today's vote will push their Democratic colleagues to make a legislative deal on the issue — but right now, that seems unlikely.

Go deeper

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

1 hour ago - World

Top general: China's hypersonic missile test "very close" to a "Sputnik moment"

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.

Climate reckoning for oil and gas CEOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell will face a reckoning on Capitol Hill Thursday, as they're grilled on evidence that their companies knew for years that their products were driving climate change but chose to downplay or deny it.

Why it matters: The hearing before the House Oversight Committee will be the first time these executives have been brought together to provide sworn testimony regarding what they knew about the ties between their company's products and climate change, and when they knew it.