The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to begin the process of reestablishing net neutrality rules, reviving a debate that last came to a head in 2017 when the agency voted to reverse the rules created just a few years earlier. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally, without blocking or throttling certain content.
The vote to reestablish net neutrality rules was approved by the three Democratic commissioners, while the two Republican commissioners dissented. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced her intention to reestablish the rules shortly after Democrat Anna Gomez was sworn in as the fifth and final commissioner, establishing a Democratic majority at the agency for the first time during the Biden administration.
The next step in the process is for the public to have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rulemaking. After that, the FCC will consider feedback from the public in crafting a final rule.
Opponents of net neutrality argue that the previous repeal of the rules during the Trump era did not result in the doomsday scenarios predicted by proponents of the rules. They claim that the campaign for net neutrality rules was a "viral disinformation campaign" and that Title II, which would regulate ISPs as a public utility, is an unnecessary solution to a nonexistent problem.
Proponents of net neutrality argue that the threat of the rules' return and the enactment of net neutrality rules in California have likely prevented ISPs from implementing discriminatory practices. They argue that a national policy is needed to ensure an open internet.
The debate around net neutrality largely centers on the reclassification of ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which opponents fear could lead to price controls being imposed on ISPs. Republicans and ISPs have generally opposed this reclassification, while Democrats and net neutrality proponents argue that it is necessary to ensure a level playing field for internet access.
The vote to reestablish net neutrality rules marks a significant shift in policy direction at the FCC, and the public will now have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed rules before a final decision is made.