FCC votes to restore net neutrality protections

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to reinstate net neutrality protections, marking a significant shift in policy that aims to ensure the internet remains fast, open, and fair for all users. The decision comes after years of public outcry and regulatory shifts that saw the rollback of previous net neutrality rules.

The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking and throttling lawful content and ban paid prioritisation. Cable and telecom companies plan to fight the rules in court, but they lost a similar battle during the Obama era when judges upheld the FCC’s ability to regulate ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. 

The reinstatement of net neutrality rules is expected to face legal challenges from internet service providers and cable companies. They plan to argue in court against the FCC’s ability to classify broadband as a telecoms service subject to common carrier regulations under Title II of the Communications Act.

Bringing back Title II oversight also empowers the FCC to more closely monitor and respond to internet service outages across the country. This was cited as one of the benefits of reinstating the net neutrality framework.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel underscored the critical importance of broadband access, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating: “Broadband went from nice-to-have to need-to-have for everyone, everywhere.”

Rosenworcel’s remarks highlighted the necessity of government oversight in ensuring that broadband providers adhere to principles of net neutrality. She emphasised that consumers have consistently voiced their support for net neutrality policies, with studies showing that 80 percent of the public opposed the repeal of these regulations.

The FCC’s decision restores the authority to monitor and address issues related to broadband service, including internet outages and consumer complaints. Rosenworcel cited examples of how the previous lack of oversight had left consumers vulnerable, such as incidents where broadband providers throttled internet speeds during emergencies, compromising public safety efforts.

The reinstatement of net neutrality rules also addresses concerns regarding national security. Under the new regulations, the FCC gains the authority to revoke authorisations of foreign-owned entities operating broadband networks in the US if they pose a threat to national security. This move aligns with broader efforts to secure telecoms infrastructure and mitigate risks associated with insecure internet routing protocols.  

Chairwoman Rosenworcel clarified that the FCC’s action does not entail rate regulation or undermine incentives for broadband investment. On the contrary, she noted that broadband investment had increased when net neutrality rules were in place, indicating that regulatory certainty can foster investment in network infrastructure.

Rosenworcel reiterated the importance of a national net neutrality policy grounded in law and history, asserting that the FCC’s decision is a step towards ensuring that broadband remains fast, open, and fair for all users. She thanked the various bureaus and teams within the FCC for their contributions to the proceeding, acknowledging their role in championing broadband access and consumer protection.  

However, there was not unanimous agreement over the FCC’s decision.

“The FCC tries to dress up its latest power grab in a 400-plus page Order that offers a laundry list of bogus justifications. Few of them rely on actual evidence. Virtually none point to real problems. All fall apart under casual scrutiny. Indeed, it’s not even clear the FCC believes the reasons it offers today for Title II,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.

“Misleading the American people is one thing, but the order also leaves them worse off.”

(Photo by Nik Shuliahin)

See also: Glance eyes full US expansion with telco partnerships

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Tags: broadband, connectivity, fcc, government, internet, law, legal, net neutrality, Networks, regulation, telecoms, title ii


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