Net Neutrality

The FCC plans to vote later this month on whether to reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and reimpose Net Neutrality rules to prevent service providers from speeding up or slowing down certain types of traffic.

Considering that three of the five commissioners already have voiced their support for the plan, the plan is likely to be adopted. If indeed it is adopted, it would go into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which would likely mean a start date sometime this summer.

Net Neutrality rules previously were in effect several years ago but were reversed under the previous FCC chair Ajit Pai. In a prepared statement, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel called that decision “abdicating authority over broadband services.”

As a result, she said, the commission “has been handcuffed from acting to fully secure broadband networks, protect consumer data, and ensure the internet remains fast, open and fair.”

She said Net Neutrality rules were “overwhelmingly popular and court-approved” and that they enabled the agency to be “a strong consumer advocate of an open internet.” An FCC release says 80% of Americans support open internet policies, although it does not cite the source of that finding.

The FCC’s arguments for Net Neutrality are a bit different this time around than they were the last time the rules were imposed when Tom Wheeler was chairman. In the press release, the FCC cites several elements of the new plan and potential benefits, including:

  • Reimposing Net Neutrality
  • Enabling the FCC to provide oversight of broadband outages
  • Boosting the security of communications networks by giving the commission stronger oversight
  • Increasing consumer protections on customer data
  • Restoring a national Net Neutrality standard rather than leaving that up to each state

Opponents include some broadband providers and provider associations, who argue that reclassifying broadband access service as a Title II telecommunications service could lead to rate regulation of that service. They also argue that the FCC doesn’t need to reclassify broadband to ensure consumer protections and that other agencies handle consumer protections.

A federal court ruled previously that the FCC did not have authority to impose Net Neutrality rules unless the agency classified broadband as a Title II service.

Providers argue that Title II and Net Neutrality regulations create a disincentive to invest in network upgrades – an argument that USTelecom President and CEO made in a prepared statement about the new proposal.

Spalter accused the FCC of “pumping the brakes” on efforts to get everyone in the U.S. connected to broadband and said the proposal was “entirely counterproductive, unnecessary, and anti-consumer.”

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