FCC Set To Reinstate Title II Authority, Ensuring a Free and Open Internet

The FCC announces plans to restore the nation's net neutrality rules for all.

Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel confirmed plans to reinstate the agency’s classification of broadband service as “telecommunications” – reopening the door for many important consumer protections that put people first, including strong net neutrality rules. Public Knowledge commends the FCC for moving to restore net neutrality as well as for creating the proper authority allowing for commonsense consumer protections for broadband users.

The FCC previously classified broadband as “telecommunications” in 2015 as part of the agency’s Open Internet Order, which enacted net neutrality rules barring broadband providers from throttling connection speeds, blocking websites, and accepting payment for prioritizing traffic. Millions of Americans expressed support for these rules by submitting comments with the FCC, but the agency, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, changed course in its unpopular 2017 repeal, which abdicated FCC authority over broadband completely – an unprecedented move that left many consumers vulnerable to deteriorating broadband lines that have not been maintained or upgraded, network traffic being blocked or throttled, and rising prices due to lessened broadband and online competition.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“The FCC’s move to restore Title II classification for broadband is a necessary step in protecting both the Open Internet and consumers. It ensures that broadband providers cannot abuse their gatekeeper power over a service that has become essential to every aspect of modern life. Broadband is now a necessity for work, education, entertainment, healthcare, social connection, and civic engagement. Internet service providers have the ability and incentive to exploit their control over this vital communications service, and only Title II authority gives the FCC the legal tools it needs to ensure that the public interest comes first.

“Title II classification is the foundation of net neutrality. It provides the solid, court-tested legal framework necessary for the FCC to adopt rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization – practices that fundamentally undermine the free and open nature of the internet. This action will also equip the FCC with the flexible authority it needs to address emerging threats to the Open Internet, including discriminatory interconnection and billing practices, and to safeguard internet users’ sensitive personal information from being used by broadband providers in abusive or undisclosed ways.

“With this legal tool, the FCC can reassert its role as the nation’s top cop on the broadband beat. It will help the FCC more fully address digital redlining, ensuring that broadband access is not denied or degraded to low-income areas, or based on people’s race or other protected characteristics. It will give the FCC clearer authority to promote network reliability and resiliency, so that users have a consistent internet experience that is ready for times of crisis and recovers quickly from outages. It will also help the FCC combat cyber attacks and address other national security risks that could cripple our increasingly internet-dependent economy and society.

“Title II is also a pro-competition tool. It will help the FCC streamline the deployment of new broadband networks and reduce barriers to competition. By preventing ISPs from using their control over infrastructure to squeeze out competitors or prioritize their own affiliated content and services, Title II, along with antitrust enforcement and other policies, will help protect the internet as a platform for innovation and consumer choice. 

“While many states stepped in to fill in the gaps in the absence of FCC oversight, and will still have an important role to play, we need a national baseline of broadband protections. We applaud Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s leadership on this issue and urge the Commission to move swiftly to adopt strong net neutrality rules grounded in Title II authority.”

You may view previously filed Public Knowledge comments on this item for more information.

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at shiva@publicknowledge.org or 405-249-9435.