why it matters
By voting to move forward on a proposal to restore net neutrality, the FCC is expanding its reach.
The move will eventually enable the agency to classify high-speed internet as a utility like water or electricity. This is a major step toward modernizing the agency’s objectives, especially as consumers increasingly rely on the Internet as their main source for communication. The agency will then be able to police broadband providers for net neutrality violations, consumer harm and security lapses.
“It is time that our rules for Internet service providers reflect the reality that Internet access is a necessity for daily life,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
Background: What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is a strange principle of equal internet access.
The idea is that broadband customers should be able to access any site without interference from high-speed Internet service providers. Coined more than 15 years ago by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, the concept was initially developed to prevent cable and telecom companies, which provide Internet services, from competing with the likes of Google, Netflix and Skype. Block or slow down the delivery of such sites. with them.
The debate over net neutrality has been highly partisan. The FCC established net neutrality rules during the Obama administration, but Republicans criticized them as overreaching. Telecom companies have also argued that net neutrality rules could lead to regulatory creep and deregulation of broadband rates. President Donald J. The FCC, led by Republicans under Trump, repealed the rules in 2017.
Ms. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said she decided to reopen the debate after seeing the importance of broadband oversight in the coronavirus pandemic. He said broadband became a necessity for education and work during the lockdown, but the agency could not compel providers to ensure quality service.
what critics say
Republican lawmakers are fighting against the move to reinstate net neutrality rules. In a letter to Ms. Rosenworcel this week, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee described the proposal as “a solution in search of a problem.”
USTelecom, the trade group representing companies like AT&T and Verizon, wrote letters to the House and Senate Intelligence committees this week warning of “mission creep” in cybersecurity by the FCC. The letters say the FCC is potentially causing confusion among government agencies and congressional committees on broadband-related national security issues.
FCC Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr said broadband services have improved without regulation. He criticized the proposal as unfavorable to consumers.
“There will be a lot of talk about ‘net neutrality’ and virtually no talk about the main issue facing the agency: namely, whether the FCC should claim independent power to micromanage virtually every aspect of the functioning of the Internet – Services that consumers can access at prices that can be charged,” Mr Carr said.
what will happen next
The FCC will begin taking public comments on the proposed rule. The chairperson may then choose to incorporate the comments into the final draft. The Commission will then vote on implementing the regulation as early as 2024.