Hope for the preservation of net neutrality may have quietly been vacated last Friday when the United States Senate failed to reconfirm Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

First noted by Bloomberg, the decision not to confirm Rosenworcel pushes her off the board, leaving an absent seat and creating a deadlock with two Republicans and two Democrats still in place.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, an appointee of President Barack Obama, remains as one of the two Democrats on the board and can stay until 2018 but it is unclear how long he will remain in place.

The current chairman has made no indication of he will leave or remain on the board; President George W. Bush appointee Kevin Martin left the chairman position and the FCC board on President Obama’s inauguration day despite having two years left in his term.

As long as Wheeler stays, the board will be split along party lines—though Rosenworcel has been at odds with Wheeler in the past for the speed at which it moved on net neutrality and over his attempt to lift a ban on mobile phone calls on airplanes.

Were Wheeler to step down, it would create two vacancies to fill and a 2-1 majority for the Republican votes. Those seats would be filled by appointees of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been a vocal opponent of net neutrality despite exercising an apparent lack of understanding of the rules.

Trump indicated in a tweet he sent in 2014 that he believed net neutrality to be an attempt to censor conservative media despite there being no evidence to suggest the rules could be used in such a way.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers to treat all data as equal and prevent carriers from creating “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” or charging services additional fees to reach their customers at faster speeds.

The Trump transition team members who are overseeing changes to the FCC have expressed their opposition to net neutrality in the past. Former Verizon consultant Jeff Eisenach and Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison have criticized net neutrality, as has American Enterprise Institute scholar Rosyln Layton, the most recent addition to the transition team.

The two Republican members that remain on the FCC are also vocal opponents to the concept of net neutrality. FCC member Ajit Pai suggested the commission needed to “fire up the weed whacker” and cut back on regulations like net neutrality that Pai deemed to be “holding back investment, innovation and job creation."

Pai’s fellow Republican board member Michael O'Rielly echoed the sentiment and argued the FCC “should consider acting quickly to reverse any damaging policies put into place over the last eight years and in the last few weeks of this administration."

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