The Federal Communications Commission voted on Tuesday to reject an effort by the Trump administration to block major wireless carriers from deploying “smart” wireless networks, a move that would have effectively blocked access to the internet.
The move by the FCC would have required that carriers like AT&T and Verizon pay billions of dollars to keep their networks online.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said the move would put Americans at a disadvantage when competing for data on the internet, which is the main source of revenue for internet service providers.
The agency also voted 2-1 to approve a proposal from the Trump transition team that would require that wireless providers have the right to block access to sites that they consider to be dangerous.
The vote was the latest blow to Pai, who has been accused of stifling free speech by opposing net neutrality rules in favor of favoring corporate profits.
Pai has insisted that his decision was meant to protect net neutrality, which has been the basis for an open internet since the 1990s.
“The Internet is a platform for innovation and for the free exchange of ideas, and it is essential that all content creators and platforms remain free to express their ideas and beliefs,” Pai said in a statement.
“I am confident that the American people will support this Commission’s decision and that these new rules will help protect the Internet and promote innovation.”
Pai and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had initially announced the proposal to block the deployment of wireless networks as early as this month, but the move was rejected by the commission in a 4-2 vote, with a majority of commissioners voting against the move.
Pai had also said he would not block internet access in the event of major natural disasters.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted against the proposal.
Pai said on Twitter that the decision was based on an analysis of a number of factors, including the impact on public safety.
He said the FCC had “received more than 3 million comments and has responded to over 600,000 emails.”
Pai also said the agency had been working to address “significant threats” to the network, which would include “serious cyber threats, fraud, and malware.”
Pai’s move comes after the Trump White House proposed banning the deployment in 2019 of wireless “smart,” or “smart home,” devices that can provide data on a person’s location and home WiFi.
The proposal was met with widespread criticism from privacy groups, who argued that the devices would allow internet providers to sell data to advertisers.
The Trump administration has also suggested that the new wireless network rules could force wireless carriers to sell customer data to businesses.