FCC Chair Looks To Reinstate Net Neutrality

The chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that she will be proposing an initiative that would reinstate rules for net neutrality that former President Donald Trump repealed during his time in the White House.

The proposal from Jessica Rosenworcel would ban broadband providers – such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T – from either blocking or slowing down internet traffic to certain websites while speeding up the access to websites that pay them to do so.

Internet providers would also be barred from “unreasonably interfering or unreasonably disadvantaging consumers from going where they want and doing what they want on the internet,” she said.
Rules for net neutrality were first approved by the FCC in 2015, when former President Barack Obama was in office.

Rosenworcel said that there’s a need for them to return, as people have increasingly relied on the internet to power multiple aspects of their lives. This really came to the forefront, she said, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking with the National Press Club this week, Rosenworcel said:

“[The pandemic] made crystal clear that broadband is no longer just nice to have. It’s a need-to-have for everyone, everywhere. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It is essential infrastructure for modern life.

“No one without it has a fair shot at 21st-century success. We need broadband to reach 100% of us, and we need it to be fast, open and fair.”

The announcement from Rosenworcel comes not long following the Senate’s confirmation of Anna Gomez for the FCC board. Gomez, who was sworn into her new position on Monday, fills the fifth spot on the commission, which breaks the deadlock that existed with two Democratic and two Republican commissioners.

The FCC chairwoman said she’d release the full text of her proposal to reinstate net neutrality rules sometime this week. Her plan is to bring it before the full FCC for a vote sometime in the middle of October. If it passes, then it would start the rulemaking process in the agency.

The rules that she is proposing, she said, fall in line with what were approved under the Obama administration. Those didn’t last long, though, as they were rolled back pretty significantly when the GOP took control of the FCC in 2017.

As Rosenworcel said this week:

“I believe this repeal of net neutrality put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the American public. It was not good then, and it makes even less sense now.”

Since the net neutrality rules were repealed a few years ago, multiple internet service providers have been found to be limiting speed or access to certain sites. Comcast, for example, was found to be limiting the quality of videos for subscribers of every mobile plan it offers, unless customers fork over extra money.

Other telecom companies have been found to slow down traffic from certain popular streaming apps such as Netflix and YouTube.