On September 26, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel spoke at the National Press Club and said that she is a supporter of net neutrality. She proposed the revival of the net neutrality rules which had been rolled back in 2017 and said that the FCC would invite public comment on how restoring net neutrality rules can help ensure internet access is fast, open, and fair.
Under Rosenworcel’s proposal, the FCC would have the power to oversee broadband internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. Title II of the Communications Act gives the FCC clear authority to serve as a watchdog over the communications marketplace and look out for the public interest.
What were the US’s net neutrality rules?
Net neutrality principles ensure that all online service providers are treated equally. The net neutrality rules that the US had pre-2017 said three simple things:
- No blocking: Internet service providers (ISPs) should not block users’ access to certain platforms/websites.
- No throttling: ISPs cannot single out internet traffic based on where its coming from or who it’s going to.
- No paid prioritization: ISPs cannot accept money to speed up access to a certain platform or service.
“I believe this repeal of net neutrality put the agency on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the public. It was not good then, but it makes even less sense now,” Rosenworcel said discussing the repeal of these rules in 2017. Her proposal claims that it will return to these rules and will ensure that “broadband service is on par with water, power, and phone service; that is: essential.”
Why it matters:
Net neutrality is essential to innovation, it gives every internet startup a fair chance to garner a user base. If ISPs are allowed to charge platforms for faster speeds, it creates barriers to entry: only those who have the wherewithal to bid for or acquire licenses are given the opportunity to create and distribute content. And so, Rosenworcel’s proposal on reinstating net neutrality will help ensure that US telecoms treat all platforms/online services equally.
Aiding innovation or overregulation:
MediaNama received comments from the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, which says that the reinstatement of these rules is not necessary. “Regulating ISPs like water utilities or electricity providers is a path toward more government control and oversight of the Internet, plain and simple,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center said.
He claims that the problem facing the US isn’t broadband providers blocking certain access or services but it is the “government agencies attempting to strong-arm and jawbone Internet providers and platforms into censoring or removing content they don’t agree with.”
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