US agency to vote to restore net neutrality rules

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 6:29 AM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote Thursday to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules and assume new regulatory oversight of broadband internet rescinded under former President Donald Trump.

The commission voted 3-2 in October to advance the proposal to reinstate open internet rules adopted in 2015 and re-establish the commission’s authority over broadband internet. The FCC will vote to give final approval Thursday.

Net neutrality refers to the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

“It is time to have broadband oversight, national net neutrality rules and policies that ensure the internet is fast, open, and fair,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Reinstating the rules has been a priority for President Joe Biden, who signed a July 2021 executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate net neutrality rules adopted under Democratic President Barack Obama.

Democrats were stymied for nearly three years because they did not take majority control of the five-member FCC until October.

Under Trump, the FCC had argued the net neutrality rules were unnecessary, blocked innovation and resulted in a decline in network investment by internet service providers, a contention disputed by Democrats.

A group of Republican lawmakers including House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senator Ted Cruz called the plan “an illegal power grab that would expose the broadband industry to an oppressive regulatory regime” giving the agency and states power to impose rate regulation, unbundling obligations and broadband taxing authority.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Amazon.com, Apple, Alphabet and Meta Platforms, back net neutrality, arguing the rules “must be reinstated to preserve open access to the internet.”

USTelecom, whose members include AT&T, Verizon and others, called reinstating net neutrality effort “entirely counterproductive, unnecessary, and an anti-consumer regulatory distraction.”

Despite the 2017 repeal, a dozen states now have net neutrality laws or regulations in place. Industry groups abandoned legal challenges to those state requirements in May 2022.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by William Maclean)