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FCC Proposes Reinstating Obama-Era Net Neutrality Regulations
By Brendan Frye,
The FCC announced plans this week to restore Obama-era net neutrality regulations that were rolled back under the Trump administration in 2017. The move comes as Democrats regained majority control of the FCC panel on Monday with the appointment of a third Democratic commissioner.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the 2017 vote to repeal net neutrality rules “put the agency on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the public.” She continued, “Today we begin a process to make this right.”
Specifically, the rules would prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling or prioritizing internet traffic to certain websites and services. ISPs would not be allowed to create “fast lanes” for companies willing to pay extra fees. All traffic would have to be treated equally.
The proposal mirrors the Open Internet Order passed in 2015 under then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. That order reclassified ISPs as common carriers after previous net neutrality rules were struck down in court. Wheeler said the 2015 rules were necessary to protect consumers and innovators who rely on a free and open internet. However, ISPs argued the regulations were too heavy-handed.
When Republicans gained control of the FCC in 2017, they voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the rollback a victory for consumers and said it removed unnecessary regulation. But net neutrality advocates say without rules, ISPs can abuse their power as internet gatekeepers. The repeal was met with widespread public backlash.
Now, with Democrats back in charge, net neutrality is poised for a comeback. However, the new proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from ISPs who have long fought for stricter regulation. Court battles are expected as well. ISPs will likely challenge the FCC’s authority to reinstate Title II classification. Previous court rulings on the matter have been mixed.
Regardless, net neutrality supporters see the FCC announcement as a major milestone in the fight for an open internet. But the road to finalizing and implementing the new rules could still be long and contentious.