FCC restores Net Neutrality protections

The reinstated Net Neutrality protects will "reclassify high-speed-internet access services as telecom services subject to Title II of the Communications Act."

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In a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reinstate Net Neutrality protections, which will prevent broadband providers from harming online users. The open-internet protections were repealed in 2017 by former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The reinstated Net Neutrality protections will “reclassify high-speed-internet access services as telecom services subject to Title II of the Communications Act,” Free Press reported.

“Net neutrality would ensure that ‘Big Tech’ can’t just cut a deal with a broadband provider to favor its products over upstart competitors,” a FCC fact sheet said.

Under Title II authority, the FCC has the authority to hold companies, like AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon, accountable for a wide range of harms to internet users and “requires providers of internet service to treat all traffic equally, eliminating any incentive they might face to favor business partners or to hobble competitors,” the Mississippi Business Journal reported.

“We’ve been fighting for this moment since well before the Trump FCC threw out strong Title II rules in 2017,” Craig Aaron, co-CEO of Free Press, said. “It’s been nearly 20 years since Net Neutrality first came under threat. In the time since, the debate over Net Neutrality, like the internet itself, has evolved. But the central concern remains the same: Does the FCC have the authority, vested in Title II of the Communications Act, to step in when internet service providers treat their customers unjustly by blocking or interfering with the free flow of information online? Today, the FCC answered that question with a resounding yes.”

While some are calling this a victory for the Democratic Party, opposition from taxpayer advocacy groups and Republican lawmakers said the restoration of net neutrality protections will harm America’s leadership in broadband Internet.

“The FCC does not presume to have the sweeping power to refashion Title II into an entirely new legislative scheme by picking and choosing which parts to apply,” Brendan Carr, FCC Commissioner, said. “The FCC throws whatever it can think of against the wall to see if anything sticks.”

But one expert said the FCC’s reinstatement of net neutrality protections won’t create a noticeable change since many states passed their own net neutrality measures prior to 2015, which have remained in effect when the FCC repealed the protections during Trump’s presidency.

“Some of the absolute worst excesses from (internet providers) were kept in check by state level oversight,” John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge legal director, said.

Democratic FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said that more protection is essential now that the internet went from “nice to have, to need to have.”

“Broadband is now an essential service,” Rosenworcel said. “Essential services, the ones we count on in every aspect of modern life, have some basic oversight.”

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