The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote Thursday on a plan that will eliminate requirements designed to guarantee American consumers have access to quality phone and broadband networks.

The plan proposed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, called “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment,” would ostensibly remove regulations that telecommunications firms have cited as restricting investment in their networks—but could have adverse effects for consumers.

Pai’s plan would take aim at a “functional test” created during a 2014 Declaratory Ruling under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that requires telecom companies who want to abandon copper networks ensure that Americans are provided with networks that are at least as good as the networks being replaced.

Under the guidance of the test, carriers must prove that the network they are replacing the old copper network with will provide consumers with the same capabilities and will not result in degrading the quality of service for subscribers.

The requirement was created with telephone service in mind but has extended to broadband internet service as well, as the two products often use the same networks.  

According to the telecom companies affected by the test, it has prevented them from expanding and improving their networks. In a fact sheet produced by the FCC regarding the proposed rule change that would eliminate the test, the commission said the requirement “deterred and delayed carriers from upgrading their networks.”

Consumer advocates warn that eliminating the requirement won’t necessarily allow telecoms to expand their network. Rather, it would simply allow them to say the network is “good enough” without providing legitimate upgrades.

Without the functional test, telecom companies could declare a region service by mobile services to have adequate coverage. There would be no requirement to provide a network that is better or more reliable than the copper networks, nor would carriers have to provide fixed wireless services or other services that offer a more stable connection than mobile networks.

The removal of the requirement could especially harm rural areas, where telecom providers have already lagged behind in providing high speed internet access. If carriers pull up the copper networks in those regions with no requirement of an equal replacement, residents in less densely populated regions could be stuck with mobile networks as the most reliable option for internet and phone services.

A letter addressed to the FCC by the Communications Workers of America, consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, NAACP and a number of other organizations, highlighted additional concerns regarding the potential removal of the functional test.

“The FCC's order will now interpret ‘service’ to include a carrier's tariff. A tariff is a very basic description of what a carrier offers and at what rate,” the group wrote. “This means the Commission's remaining notice requirements will only apply to basic services, but will not include 911 services, ensure network reliability, or interconnection with devices consumers use such as medical monitors, alarm systems, fax and credit card machines, and equipment for people who are hearing impaired.”

In addition to the consumer advocacy organizations taking issue with the vote, 16 U.S. senators signed onto a letter sent Tuesday urging the FCC not to move forward with its vote. “These changes cause serious concern for rural Americans including the elderly, low-income, and consumers living with disabilities who rely on landline phone service,” the senators wrote.

Democratic commissioners on the FCC have expressed skepticism about the proposal to remove the functional test in the past, but are likely to be in the minority when a vote on the issue is taken Thursday.