Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Unveils Intent to Restore Net Neutrality Protections
Net neutrality is making a comeback, signaling a significant shift in the approach to internet regulation. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to reintroduce rules that require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally, eliminating any preferential treatment for business partners or their own services.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a longtime advocate for net neutrality, unveiled this effort during a speech at the National Press Club. She emphasized the essential nature of broadband, stating, "It is not a luxury; it's a necessity. It is essential infrastructure for modern life. No one without it has a fair shot at 21st-century success. We need broadband to reach 100% of us, and it needs to be fast, open, and fair."
In a released fact sheet, Rosenworcel outlined the FCC's goal to return to the successful rules implemented in 2015, classifying broadband as a fundamental utility on par with water, power, and phone services.
Net neutrality, at its core, advocates for internet providers, whether mobile or fixed, to act as neutral conduits for data transmission, refraining from any form of data discrimination or prioritization beyond what is necessary for efficient service provision. While some data prioritization is inevitable due to network functionality, net neutrality prohibits actions such as throttling competitors' streaming services while favoring one's own.
Though such extreme behavior was not widespread, there were instances, often cloaked as "zero rating" practices, where certain streaming services were exempt from bandwidth caps. In 2015, the FCC enacted net neutrality rules, resonating with the belief that internet service providers should have no say in how consumers use their bandwidth.
However, a shift in FCC leadership occurred following the 2016 election. Ajit Pai, the new FCC chairman, made it a priority to overturn net neutrality, which he eventually accomplished through what critics considered dubious legal reasoning. This move was met with opposition, even from the original drafters of the law he cited.
The impending revival of net neutrality reflects a renewed commitment to a free and open internet, where all online content is treated equally, regardless of the provider or its affiliations. This development marks a significant departure from the previous administration's stance and could have far-reaching implications for the future of internet regulation in the United States.