Sep 26, 2023 - Technology

The fight for net neutrality is back

Illustration of the FCC logo tangled in ethernet cable wires.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel just announced plans to restore net neutrality rules previously reversed during the Trump administration.

If approved, the net neutrality rules would place providers under the same classification as phone companies, allowing the FCC to treat the internet as an essential service subject to greater regulation.

Why it matters: Proponents of the rules say they're necessary to ensure that information flows freely and consumers continue having access to an open and free internet, as well as to defend national security and advance public safety.

Reality check: Fights over net neutrality go back to the 1990s and this fight will likely be no different. The vote will follow a draft of the proposed rules, public feedback, likely lots of lobbying and lawsuits.

  • The FCC's rules aim to prevent internet companies from slowing down service, blocking content or showing preferential treatment to websites that pay by, for example, increasing speeds.

What they're saying: Representatives from the broadband industry are skeptical of the FCC's plans.

  • "The Fiber Broadband Association looks forward to reviewing Chairwoman Rosenworcel's proposal closely and working with all of the Commissioners to ensure the Federal Communications Commission first 'do no harm,'" Gary Bolton, president and CEO, Fiber Broadband Association said in a statement.
  • And Joe Kane, a policy analyst who covers the broadband industry for the Information and Technology Innovation Foundation, urged the FCC to reject the proposal.
  • "Proponents of utility-style regulation of the Internet have been proven wrong by history," Kane said in a statement. "The Chairwoman's proposal would hamper the development of the Internet at a time when consumers need it most. Proponents of utility-style regulation of the Internet have been proven wrong by history .... The FCC should reject the proposal."

Of note: Some states like California already have net neutrality rules, and the agency's move is an effort to replace what they call a patchwork of rules with one strong federal standard.

Flashback: On June 1, 2014, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver aired a segment on net neutrality, which crashed the FCC website and was the first time the comedian became known for explaining complicated tech topics to a wide audience.

What's next: The agency on Oct. 19 will vote on whether to advance the draft rules.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that policy analyst Joe Kane is not being quoted as a representative of the industry. A quote from Fiber Broadband Association's Gary Bolton has also been added.

A version of this story was published first on Axios Pro. Unlock more news like this by talking to our sales team.

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