Connectivity

It’s official: The FCC brought back net neutrality

The rules aim to prevent interference from ISPs and restore regulatory authority over them.
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3 min read

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Policymakers at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines Thursday to reinstate net neutrality principles, which mandate that internet service providers can’t interfere with how online content is transmitted.

The 3–2 vote restores what’s known as Title II classification for ISPs, which gives the agency more oversight authority under the Communications Act to investigate possible consumer abuses, network outages, and other service interruptions.

“Consumers have made clear to us they do not want their broadband provider cutting sweetheart deals, with fast lanes for some services and slow lanes for others,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said during the meeting. “If they have problems, they expect the nation’s expert authority on communications to be able to respond. Because we put net neutrality rules back on the national books, we fix that today.”

The campaign to restore net neutrality has long been a hallmark of liberal administrations, and congressional Democrats publicly threw their weight behind the policy change ahead of the vote, as Tech Brew previously reported. The US has lacked net neutrality rules since 2017, during the Trump administration, when then-FCC Chair Ajit Pai led a high-profile vote to repeal them.

Unsurprisingly, Thursday’s vote drew the ire of the FCC’s two Republican members, who dissented from the majority decision. Commissioner Brendan Carr, a vocal critic of platforms including TikTok and Apple, said his agency is focused on the wrong bogeyman and that ISPs function best when they’re subject to less government regulation.

“Since 2017, we’ve learned that the real abusers of gatekeeper power were not ISPs operating at the physical layer, but Big Tech companies at the applications layer,” he said during the meeting.

Moving forward, Rosenworcel said the agency will be better able to prevent foreign adversaries from interconnecting with US internet infrastructure and capturing domestic web traffic.

A handful of activists, some wearing pro-net neutrality T-shirts, immediately stood and applauded at the end of the vote. Consumer advocacy groups also reacted positively to the news.

“Broadband providers have proven over the years that without proper oversight, they will not hesitate to use their power to increase profits at the expense of consumers,” Consumer Reports Director of Technology Policy Justin Brookman said in a statement shared with Tech Brew.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.