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Net Neutrality Restored by FCC

Updated: May 14

Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently cast a pivotal vote that's set to reshape the landscape of the internet. The agency voted 3-2 to bring back net neutrality provisions that were previously abolished in 2017.

Table of Contents

  • Net Neutrality: An Overview

  • The Struggle Over Net Neutrality

  • Broadband: A Common Carrier

  • Implications of the New Net Neutrality Regulations

  • Final Thoughts

Net Neutrality: An Overview

Net neutrality is a principle that fundamentally supports the equal treatment of all data across the internet1. It posits that all data, irrespective of its nature or source, should be treated uniformly. In simpler terms, it prevents Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from meddling with web traffic by blocking, throttling, or prioritizing certain data over others.

Consider this: without net neutrality, your ISP might slow down your Netflix streaming because they have a contract with Disney+2. This would mean that even though you are a paying customer for both your ISP and Netflix, your viewing experience could be compromised due to business deals you have no part in.

The Struggle Over Net Neutrality

The FCC introduced robust net neutrality protections back in 2010. However, these rules were challenged and subsequently overturned in 2014 following a lawsuit by Verizon3. Later in 2015, new rules were introduced but were repealed two years later under FCC's new chairman, Ajit Pai4.

Following Pai's resignation in 2021 and the confirmation of the new pro-net neutrality chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, the net neutrality debate was stalled due to a vacant seat on the commission. However, the deadlock was broken in September 2023 with the confirmation of the fifth member, paving the way for the reestablishment of net neutrality rules.

Broadband: A Common Carrier

The legal aspect of the net neutrality debate largely revolves around how internet service is classified. The Communications Act of 1934 treats telecommunications such as the telephone system as public utilities, providing the government substantial oversight to prevent consumer exploitation5.

This classification became a central point of contention during the initial legal challenges to net neutrality rules. However, the FCC resolved this by classifying the internet as telecommunications under Title II of the act. This classification was reversed under Pai, but has now been reinstated, effectively restoring FCC's authority to regulate ISPs6.

Implications of the New Net Neutrality Regulations

The recent vote will restore the FCC's power to ensure a fair and open internet. This involves restoring net neutrality protections, enhancing network security, and reinforcing consumer protections7. Here's what these mean

Net Neutrality Protections

These provisions prevent ISPs from blocking or slowing down specific content. Additionally, they stop ISPs from prioritizing certain traffic over others due to paid or affiliated arrangements.

Enhanced Network Security

Under the new classification, the FCC can now require ISPs to improve network security. This can potentially protect consumers' privacy and data security.

Reinforced Consumer Protections

The new rules restore the FCC's ability to protect consumers and promote competition among telecom companies.

National Standards

The new ruling establishes a national standard for internet regulation, ensuring that all consumers, regardless of their location, enjoy the same level of consumer protections11.

Final Thoughts

Although the net neutrality battle has been politically divisive over the last decade, this regulation is a crucial stride towards a fair and open internet. It not only correctly classifies the internet as it is, but it also shields consumers from potential abuses by telecom companies.

However, the internet and its challenges continue to evolve. Hence, regulators must adapt to these changes and continue to ensure that the internet remains a platform for free expression, competition, and innovation. Our fight for a free and open internet is far from over, but with each victory, we move one step closer to our goal.

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