FCC To Vote This Month To Restore Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Wednesday that it will hold a vote to restore Net Neutrality rules on 25 April.

The US communications regulator confirmed the vote to restore Net Neutrality this month in a press release, after the issue became a political football during the Donald Trump presidency.

In October last year, the FCC had voted 3-2 on a proposal to reinstate open internet rules adopted in 2015 and reestablish the commission’s authority over broadband internet.

The regulator then said it would take public comments onboard, before voting on the issue in 2024 to finalise the plan, which is certain to face legal challenges.

Long running battle

The issue of net neutrality turned into a deeply political issue in the United States, after the FCC under former President Barack Obama (a Democrat), had adopted net neutrality rules back in 2015.

Those laws were designed to stop service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Prior to 2015 the FCC had enforced network neutrality on a case-by-case basis through four principles the agency had approved in 2005.

But Republican Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, and with his appointment of former FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the Republican-dominated FCC in 2017 controversially voted to “roll back” Obama-era net neutrality rules for the United States.

The FCC’s decision in 2017 had been fiercely opposed by the US Senate, as well as by tech firms and small businesses, and many US states at the time.

Yet the roll back had been supported by some telecom providers in the US.

However the tide turned after the Democrats took majority control of the five-member FCC in early October 2023 for the first time since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

That saw democrat FCC commissioners outnumbering republican commissioners, 3 to 2.

President Biden had signed a July 2021 executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate net neutrality rules adopted under Democratic President Barack Obama.

25 April vote

Now FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has announced the Commission will vote during its April Open Meeting to restore Net Neutrality, which she said would bring back a national standard for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection.

If adopted, the Chairwoman’s proposal would ensure that broadband services are treated as an essential resource deserving of FCC oversight under Title II authority.

“The pandemic proved once and for all that broadband is essential,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “After the prior administration abdicated authority over broadband services, the FCC has been handcuffed from acting to fully secure broadband networks, protect consumer data, and ensure the internet remains fast, open, and fair.”

“A return to the FCC’s overwhelmingly popular and court-approved standard of net neutrality will allow the agency to serve once again as a strong consumer advocate of an open internet,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.

The 25 April meeting will be open to the public and streamed live at www.fcc.gov/live.

If adopted, the reclassification and rules would largely go into effect 60 days after Federal Register publication.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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