Net Neutrality Is Officially Back After FCC Votes To Regulate ISPs

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As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to restore net neutrality rules that were repealed during the Trump administration. The vote passed 3-2 in favor of reinstating net neutrality regulation by reclassifying broadband service as a Title II telecommunications service, which in turn enables the FCC to issue and enforce rules.

"Through its actions today, the Commission creates a national standard by which it can ensure that broadband internet service is treated as an essential service. Today’s vote also makes clear that the Commission will exercise its authority over broadband in a narrowly tailored fashion— without rate regulation, tariffing, or unbundling—to foster continued innovation and investment," the FCC stated in a press release.

The vote was split among party lines, with Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel (chairwoman, Connecticut), Geoffrey Starks (Kansas), and Anna M. Gomez (Virginia) voting in favor of restoring net neutrality, and Republican commissioners Brendan Carr (Virginia) and Nathan Simington (Virginia) opposing it.

Net neutrality rules essentially treat broadband service as a utility in similar vein to water and phones. This gives the FCC oversight to regulate rules for what it believes are for the greater good of the public. It's a politically divisive issue, however, with Republicans and ISPs arguing that government regulation isn't needed and can actually stifle investments into infrastructure.

"The internet in America has thrived in the absence of 1930s command and control regulation by the government. Indeed, bipartisan consensus emerged early on that the government should not regulate the Internet like Ma Bell’s copper line telephone monopoly," Commissioner Carr said in a statement.

Commissioner Simington echoed the sentiment, saying "net neutrality is one of those catchphrases that tricks you into thinking there is no other side of the argument." Simington argues that the internet is a "limited capacity network" that necessitates the allocation bandwidth, latency, and jitter "in a way that promotes competition and maximizes value to consumer."

Net neutrality rules prohibit ISPs from throttling, blocking, or prioritizing certain traffic. The idea is that the rules prevent ISPs from being able to artificially slow down traffic for competing services. One example that's often touted is the possibility for ISPs to impose a fee on streaming services for faster delivery.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

In a statement, Chairwoman Rosenworcel lambasted the FCC's previous commissioners who reversed net neutrality rules that were enacted during the Obama administration.

"These net neutrality policies ensured you can go where you want and do what you want online without your broadband provider making choices for you. They made clear your broadband provider should not have the right to block websites, slow services, or censor online content. These policies were court tested and approved. They were wildly popular. In fact, studies show that 80 percent of the public support the FCC’s net neutrality policies and opposed their repeal," Rosenworcel said.

She also points out that several states had already enacted their own net neutrality rules after they were tossed out at the federal level.

What are you thoughts on restoring net neutrality (PDF)? Sound off in the comments below!