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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Two years ago this week, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules that protect an open and unfettered Internet. Net neutrality is the principle that the big media companies that provide internet access should not be able to pick winners and losers.

Most importantly, after two previous attempts to enforce net neutrality failed in court, the FCC grounded its rules in the strongest legal authority. It did so by ruling that broadband is a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Communications Act. Title II is the portion of the law that gives the FCC power to protect consumers from, among other things, fraudulent billing, privacy violations and price gouging. Last June, a federal court upheld those rules, making net neutrality the law of the land.

Unfortunately, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced his intention to take a "weed whacker" to the rules and to the legal authority on which they are based. More recently, he said, "I favor net neutrality, but I oppose Title II." This should fool no one — there's no net neutrality without clear FCC authority to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market. Right now, that authority is vested in Title II.

What's next? Currently, Congress and the FCC are playing a game of chicken — each wants the other to go first. My guess is that the FCC will start the process to reclassify broadband as a deregulated "information service." That will give Congress leverage to try and pass legislation that would nominally protect net neutrality, but would strip the FCC of all authority to oversee the broadband market.

Wouldn't legislation be a good thing? Net Neutrality legislation could be a good thing if it put into place the three bright line net neutrality rules — no blocking of content, applications and services; no throttling of the same; and no paid prioritization — and also gave the FCC unambiguous authority and flexibility to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market.

But I don't expect congressional Republicans to offer such a deal. In 2015, Sen. John Thune floated a bill that would have put in place the three bright line rules, but would have stripped the FCC not only of its authority under Title II, but also under another provision of the Communications Act (known as Section 706).

The goal then, as it is now, is to defang the FCC, leaving the FTC to oversee the broadband market. As much as the FTC has been a great partner to the FCC, it's not an expert on communications networks, and its toolkit for protecting consumers is far more limited.

What all this means: Net neutrality is under assault. But repeal of the rules is by no means a done deal. Like the Affordable Care Act, Americans won't sit by and allow rules that have protected their ability to use the most important communications network in history to be taken from them. Whether the fight is at the FCC, Congress, or both, policymakers should brace for an enormous battle over the future of the internet.

Gigi Sohn is an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow and served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Over 170 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

An injured man is carried away as Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

At least 178 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Friday.

The big picture: The clashes come amid growing anger over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Tensions have also escalated in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Ohio GOP censures Rep. Anthony Gonzalez over Trump impeachment vote

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Ohio Republican Party on Friday censured Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and called for him to resign for voting to impeach former President Trump in January, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Gonzalez is the latest Republican lawmaker to be punished for voting to impeach the former president on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

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