The Federal Communications Commission today started proceedings to reimpose Net Neutrality, also known as Open Internet, guidelines. The action came in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that was adopted at today’s monthly commission meeting.
The proposed rules are designed to prevent internet providers from throttling traffic or favoring certain types of traffic. The Net Neutrality proposal also calls for reclassifying broadband internet access as a Title II telecommunications service.
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and others say the rules are needed to safeguard national security, advance public safety, protect consumers, and facilitate broadband deployment.
A Passionate Rebuttal
Commissioner Brendan Carr sees things differently and took up nearly half an hour of today’s meeting in a passionate rebuttal after other FCC officials presented arguments for re-imposing Net Neutrality rules.
Carr pointed to a “viral disinformation campaign replete with requisite doses of Orwellian wordplay” that accompanied the initial adoption of Net Neutrality rules in 2015 — rules that were later reversed.
Carr quoted headlines such as “The Internet is Dying” that appeared during the run up to adoption of the initial rules, which were similar to the new proposal.
None of those dire predications came true after Net Neutrality guidelines were reversed, Carr said.
In a reference to Title II reclassification, Carr said “utility style regulation of the internet was never about improving online experience. That was the sheep’s clothing on the wolf.”
Instead, he said, Net Neutrality was an effort by “Big Tech” companies such as Google to regulate competitors and “create a moat around their business models to foreclose competition.”
“You might expect some degree of regulatory humility after the 2017 predictions failed to materialize,” Carr continued. Instead, he said, Net Neutrality advocates have come up with new justifications for the rules.
Pro-Net Neutrality Arguments
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel shared the “new justifications” that Carr referenced at today’s meeting.
According to Rosenworcel, “Today, there is no expert agency ensuring that the internet is fast, open and fair. . . Today we begin a process to make this right.”
The Net Neutrality guidelines are needed to support public safety, national security, cybersecurity, and privacy protections, she said.
She added that, “if you hear cries that nothing has happened since the FCC retreated from Net Neutrality and are asking yourself what is the big deal, think again. Because when the FCC stepped back from having these policies in place, the court said states can step in. So when Washington withdrew, California rode in with its own regime. Other states, too. . . But when you are dealing with the most essential infrastructure in the digital age, come on, it’s time for a national policy.”
The NPRM adopted today seeks public commentary on the proposed rules. The FCC will review the comments before taking any final action.
The NPRM also seeks comment on classifying fixed and mobile broadband internet service as an essential “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act.
According to a fact sheet accompanying the announcement, other provisions the NPRM include:
- Reestablishing the framework the Commission adopted in 2015 to classify broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and to classify mobile broadband Internet access service as a commercial mobile service.
- Proposing that reclassification would provide the Commission with additional authority to safeguard national security, advance public safety, protect consumers, and facilitate broadband deployment.
- Seeking to forbear from 26 Title II provisions, and clarify that the Commission will not regulate rates or require network unbundling.
- Proposing to reestablish a uniform, national regulatory approach to protect the open Internet by preventing broadband Internet access service providers from engaging in practices harmful to consumers
The proposal is needed, the FCC said, because without Title II authority, “no federal agency can effectively monitor or help with broadband outages that threaten jobs, education, health and safety.”
The Commission also proposes to forbear from 26 provisions of Title II and more than 700 Commission rules, which would, among other things, prohibit the Commission from implementing policies like rate regulation and network unbundling.
Rosenworcel, and Commissioners Starks and Gomez approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, while Commissioners Carr and Simington dissented.
Phil Britt contributed to this report