Net neutrality will make a comeback (again) in 2022

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In December 1997, Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC addressed protesters who opposed the repeal of net neutrality rules.

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A new chapter in the ongoing saga of net neutrality and who controls the Internet, thanks to another change in power at the Federal Communications Commission next year. With New appointments from President Joe Biden Consolidating the Democratic majority in the agency, restoring Obama-era net neutrality rules under the Trump administration will be a top priority for the agency.

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net neutrality is Theory Whether you’re checking Facebook, posting photos to Instagram, or streaming a movie from Netflix or Amazon, all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. It also means that companies like Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, cannot favor their content over that of a competitor.

Proponents of net neutrality say the rules are necessary to ensure that broadband companies aren’t taking advantage of their power over the infrastructure that delivers content to your Internet-enabled TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. But broadband companies and Republicans in Congress and the FCC say the old rules gave the agency too much power, stifling broadband investment.

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The result: Net neutrality rules ping-pong back and forth depending on the political party in charge.

At the end of last year, Biden Jessica Rosenworcel named permanent chair of FCC. Biden’s other nominees for the FCC, Gigi son, Her Senate confirmation hearing took place in December and is now awaiting committee and full Senate votes. If Sohn makes it through the ratification process, Democrats will have the necessary 3-2 majority to lead the agency and reestablish the FCC’s authority to enforce the rules of the road for the Internet.

At stake in this change is whether the FCC will recapture its authority to police the Internet to ensure broadband companies are not abusing their power as gatekeepers. The 2015 rules adopted under then-President Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, were halted. By blocking or slowing down broadband providers Charging for access or faster access to the Internet. But, he Trump-era FCC tossed out rules, delegating more limited authority to the Federal Trade Commission but prompting states to follow their own rules and creating confusion over the status of net neutrality.

Rolling back the 2015 rules would re-establish the FCC’s oversight over broadband, giving the agency the authority to crack down on broadband abuses such as weak privacy practices or fraudulent billing. Additionally, the authority, which was established under the old rules Reclassifying Broadband as a Title II Service Under the Communications Act, would give the FCC concrete steps to take during an emergency such as a pandemic to ensure consumers are not cut off from broadband service.

“This next chapter in net neutrality is about re-establishing the FCC’s oversight of our nation’s telecommunications networks,” said Harold Feld, a senior vice president at the digital advocacy group Public Knowledge. “And if the FCC doesn’t establish its authority under Title II, it no longer has authority over any telecommunications.”

Feld said the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic showed people that broadband is a necessity for remote workers and shopping, making it clear that there must be some kind of federal oversight in such critical communications infrastructure.

“This is important because when the world shuts down from a global pandemic, we need an agency that doesn’t cut certain people out of service,” Feld said. “When there’s a major outage, like we’re seeing more regularly these days, we need an agency that asks for answers and requires ISPs to maintain their networks.”

Key Policy and Digital Segmentation

When under the Trump administration, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai repealed the rules in 2017, it was to boost broadband investment. Since that time, Republicans have argued that doomsday predictions that broadband providers will abuse their power have not succeeded and that increased investment in broadband, Democrats and supporters of the old rules, however, dispute these claims.

Now Biden and his fellow Democrats want net neutrality rules back on the books executive order issued In July. Biden cites lack of competition as a major problem perpetuating the digital divide and sees the restoration of net neutrality protections as an important part of his agenda to close that divide. For years, policy makers have struggled to reach those without service.

“Large providers may use their power to discriminatory means block or slow down online services,” The White House stated in a fact sheet that its executive order. “The FCC of the Obama-Biden administration adopted ‘net neutrality’ rules that required these companies to treat all Internet services equally, but it was have destroyed in 2017.”

Break deadlocks and turn the page

Since Biden took office last January, the FCC has been split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans, which has left the agency unable to act on Democrats’ agenda to roll back net neutrality. With Rosenworcel’s confirmation and net neutrality activist Sohn expected to approve, Democrats will have a majority and prepare to meet Biden’s promise to put net neutrality rules on the books,

Rosenworcel, now in his third term at the FCC, was a commissioner who Voted for the 2015 Rules, He too Voted against repeal in 2017 and spoke openly about his opposition. Sohan has spent most of his career advocating for net neutrality protection. As an advisor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, he helped draft the 2015 rules.

“Net neutrality is certainly something that Chairman Rosenvossel feels strongly about, as do Commissioners Starks and Gigi Sohn,” Feld said. “So I expect it to move very quickly once the commission is filled.”

The big question is how far the agency will go in terms of reinstating the rules. Rosenworcel and Sohn both made it clear during their Senate confirmation hearings that in addition to rolling back the 2015 rules that prohibit broadband providers from blocking and throttling traffic, the FCC needs to reestablish its authority over broadband. the wanted.

“The impact of the rollback in 2017 is broader than just net neutrality,” Rosenworcel said during his hearing. “Because it took the FCC away from oversight of broadband. And coming out of this pandemic, I think we all know we need some oversight, because it’s becoming such an essential service for day-to-day life.” Has been.”

Sohn, who has been portrayed by some Republicans as an extreme partisan, agreed with Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, that “a light touch is better” when it comes to regulation. But it said the FCC has had no authority over broadband since the repeal of net neutrality in 2017. And this is a problem.

“The thing I’m worried about…is that we don’t have any touch,” Sohan said. He said today’s net neutrality debate is not just about preventing Internet service providers from blocking and throttling access to content.

“It’s about whether broadband, which we all agree is an essential service, there should be some government oversight,” Sohn said. “And it’s not there yet.”

Sohan’s critics worry that she will push for sweeping changes such as rate regulation. But Sohan made it clear in her hearing that she would not go that far. Separately, Rosenworcel said in written remarks that it does not plan to directly or indirectly regulate broadband rates.

Rosenworcel noted that the 2015 net neutrality rules “explicitly avoid the use of prescriptive, industrywide rate regulation in the future.” She said she “supported this approach in the past and will do so again in the future.”

Although Democrats will be eager to begin, the process of restoring net neutrality and re-establishing FCC authority will not be quick. Once Democrats win a majority, they must issue a notice of proposed rulemaking and open the proposal for public comment. All told, the new rules won’t go into effect for at least a year.

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