October 22, 2023
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted in favour of re-establishing open internet protections, also known as net neutrality rules.
The US communications regulatory body, the FCC, voted on Thursday (October 19th) in favour of initiating proceedings to restore and re-instate open internet protections, more commonly referred to as net neutrality rules. The rules, which were previously abolished during the Trump administration, are now open for public commenting and will be voted on once again in a few months.
The public consultation will seek that fixed and mobile broadband internet service are classified as an essential “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act. Without authority under this Act, the FCC announcement states, “no federal agency can effectively monitor or help with broadband outages that threaten jobs, education, health, and safety”.
The agency’s proposal further aims to ensure that clear and nationwide open internet rules are put in place to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from “blocking legal content, throttling speeds, and creating fast lanes that favor those who can pay for access”.
Open internet protections were in enforcement in the US between 2005 and 2018 as a layer of protection for both consumers and businesses. With a renewed pro net neutrality support among the Commission, the proposed rules aim to go beyond broadband services as an essential service alone and look to also ensure data privacy and safety.
“The law requires telecommunications providers to protect the confidentiality of the proprietary information of their customers.” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “That means that these providers cannot sell your location data, among other sensitive information. Those privacy protections currently extend to voice customers but not broadband subscribers. Does that really make sense? Do we want our broadband providers selling what we do online? Scraping our service for a payday from new artificial intelligence models? Doing any of this without our permission?”
Rosenworcel further went on pre-empting any speculation for rate regulation. “We know competition is the best way to bring down rates for consumers. And approaches like the Affordable Connectivity Program are the best bet for making sure service is affordable for all. We will not let broadband providers, gatekeepers to the internet, dictate what we can and cannot say online. And we will not undermine incentives to invest in broadband networks, which were robust as ever when these rules were in place.”
Restoring the policy by the FCC will result in a unified framework across the nation instead of what has been in place since the withdrawal by the previous administration, namely individual states have been able to put open internet protection policies in place, and it seems quite a few kept the rules ongoing over the years.
“All in all, nearly a dozen [states] put net neutrality rules in state law, executive orders, or contracting policies. So in effect, we have open internet policies that providers are abiding by right now—they are just coming from Sacramento and places like it. But when you are dealing with the most essential infrastructure in the digital age, come on, it’s time for a national policy.”
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