The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to begin the process of resurrecting the Obama-era net neutrality rules that were dismantled under the Trump administration, kicking off what is expected to be a long and complicated road.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel last month announced that she would start the effort to bring back the rules, given that they “are more important than ever,” citing everything from the open internet policy embraced by previous agency officials to national security and the need for consistent standards.
Opponents, which include the Republican commissioners at the agency and the broadband industry, argue the rules are antiquated, put an undue burden on internet service providers, and choke off innovation and investment. AT&T said earlier today that the rules weren’t needed.
Thursday’s “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” opens the process up to public comment and feedback. Rosenworcel said she would listen to all feedback and make adjustments as needed.
The rules, first introduced in 2015, designated the internet service providers as Title II companies, which are more akin to gas and electric companies, with heavier oversight. They made it through a legal challenge in court before the following administration ordered their dismantling (read the full history of net neutrality here).
The new take on the rules would be similar to the 2015 version, and will certainly be challenged in court again.
“The FCC’s proposal to reinstate Title II regulation of broadband is not only misguided – it is a missed opportunity,” said Grant Spellmeyer, CEO of ACA Connects, a trade group made up of smaller cable and internet providers. “We should be working together to improve broadband access and adoption for all Americans, not relitigating the regulatory battles of the past.”
Consumer advocates, however, applauded the move.
“Reinstating the agency’s Title II authority is a top priority,” said Free Press co-CEO Jessica Gonzalez. “People across the country are demanding these open-internet safeguards, which will allow the FCC to ensure that everyone in the United States — no matter their location, political persuasion, race or income — has affordable, reliable and safe internet connections free from discrimination, blocking or other ISP manipulation.”