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FCC set to restore net neutrality rules

Apr 3, 2024
Illustration of an arrow cursor being lassoed by a blue ethernet cable

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The FCC later this month will vote on whether to bolster the agency's regulatory powers over internet companies, Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: Net neutrality proponents say more government oversight is needed to ensure networks are secure, people's data is protected and the internet remains fast and open.

How it works: The rules are expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled commission.

  • The rules would allow the FCC to treat internet companies as an essential service, like phone companies.
  • Rosenworcel previewed the rules in September.
  • The FCC would be empowered to help restore internet service when there's an outage and kick foreign companies deemed national security threats off internet networks.

The intrigue: While Congress stalls on passing a national privacy law, this new authority will empower the FCC to prohibit internet companies from selling Americans' location data and other sensitive information.

Yes, but: Unlike a law passed by Congress, the FCC's actions can be overturned with the arrival of a Republican administration the way they were when former President Trump took office.

  • The Obama-era rules to reclassify broadband under what's known as Title II were fought by the telecom industry in court and eventually rolled back under Trump's FCC Chair Ajit Pai.

The other side: Internet service providers say net neutrality rules can lead to regulatory overreach and harm competition.

  • "It's been two years since the White House asked Congress and the country to be all in on Internet for All," said USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter.
  • "But just as this goal is now within reach, the FCC is pumping the brakes with this entirely counterproductive, unnecessary, and anti-consumer regulatory distraction. America deserves better."

What's next: The proposed rules will be voted on during the commission's monthly meeting on April 25.

  • The rules will largely go into effect 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.
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