Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Move Restoring Agency’s Broadband Authority, Net Neutrality Rules

The agency's historic net neutrality rules return, opening the door for more consumer protections.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Declaratory Ruling, Order, Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration that would 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 reduced broadband and online competition.

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

“Today, the FCC voted to restore the net neutrality rules that were put into place in 2015, and later repealed. Restoring what we had before is an important victory, but just the beginning.

“As we said when the FCC published its draft Order, Title II is about much more than just net neutrality. It’s the foundation of FCC authority for broadband generally, and will help the agency promote public safety and national security; ensure resilient and reliable networks; combat digital discrimination; and promote competition and affordable service. Now the FCC needs to act on these priorities. 

“Broadband providers will continue attempting to re-brand their old plans for internet fast and slow lanes, hoping to sneak them through. The FCC will need to diligently enforce its rules, including clarifying that discrimination in favor of certain apps or categories of traffic ‘impairs’ and ‘degrades’ traffic that is left in the slow lane, and that broadband providers cannot simply take apps that people use on the internet every day and package them as a separate ‘non-broadband’ service. The FCC must also ensure that practices that are not expressly prohibited but still unreasonably interfere with the ability of end users to freely use the internet, or of edge providers to freely compete, are disallowed. These practices include discriminatory zero-rating and network interconnection practices.

“Of course, internet service providers will also challenge these rules in court, even though these same rules have already been upheld. We are ready to defend these rules again, and once again affirm the FCC’s authority to oversee the broadband industry on behalf of the public.

“But the FCC is not the only way to protect broadband consumers. The FCC has left in place significant state authority over broadband, and states and the federal government can work in parallel to protect broadband users. States with excellent net neutrality and broadband consumer protection statutes, like California, can be a nationwide model for other states and the FCC to adopt to strengthen their own rules. States have, and will continue to have, broad authority over broadband, including imposing affordability requirements and protecting subscribers from unfair billing practices–measures which, contrary to industry claims, are not ‘rate regulation.’ We are ready to defend the role of states, as well, against an industry that would prefer that neither the states nor the federal government oversee their practices.”

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