FCC Votes to Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules

In a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a landmark decision to reinstate net neutrality rules and regain regulatory authority over broadband internet services, a move that overturns actions taken during the previous administration under President Donald Trump.
broadband internet connection usersThe commission, voting along party lines, finalized a proposal initially put forth in October to reinstate the open internet regulations established in 2015 and to restore the FCC’s oversight over broadband services.

Chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, emphasized the importance of ensuring fast, open, and fair internet access for every consumer. She criticized the previous administration for relinquishing regulatory authority over broadband, stating that it left the industry without adequate supervision.

Net neutrality, a principle advocating for equal access to online content and applications without bias from internet service providers, lies at the core of these regulations.

Additionally, the FCC exercised its newfound authority by directing the U.S. operations of Chinese telecom giants, including China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile, to cease providing broadband internet services within the United States. Jessica Rosenworcel highlighted that such actions against Chinese telecom firms have been taken in the past by the FCC.

The reinstatement of net neutrality rules aligns with President Joe Biden’s agenda, as evidenced by his executive order issued in July 2021, which urged the FCC to reinstate the regulations established during the Barack Obama administration.

However, the path to reinstating these rules was hindered for nearly three years due to Democrats lacking a majority on the five-member FCC until October. During the Trump era, the FCC argued that net neutrality regulations stifled innovation and discouraged investment in network infrastructure, a stance contested by Democrats.

Critics of the FCC’s decision, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that it imposes outdated regulatory structures on broadband, potentially hindering investments and innovation necessary for universal connectivity.

On the other hand, public interest groups, including Free Press, hailed the FCC’s move as a significant victory, empowering the agency to hold internet service providers accountable for various harms to users.

Republican lawmakers, including prominent figures like Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ted Cruz, condemned the plan as an overreach of regulatory power that could lead to rate regulations and other burdensome requirements. However, FCC Democrats assured that they have no intention of setting rate regulations.

The decision to reinstate net neutrality rules has garnered mixed reactions from industry stakeholders. While companies like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Meta Platforms support the move, telecom industry groups like USTelecom view it as counterproductive and unnecessary.

Despite the federal rollback of net neutrality regulations in 2017, several states have implemented their own laws or regulations to uphold net neutrality principles. Legal challenges to these state-level requirements were dropped by industry groups in May 2022.