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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

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Texas governor: "All hostages are out alive and safe"

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Photo: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images

All four hostages have been safely released after a day-long standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Saturday night.

The latest: "Around 9 p.m., the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three [remaining] hostages, the suspect is deceased," said police chief Michael Miller of Colleyville, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The other hostage had been released earlier Saturday.

The new normal: Google searches reveal America's COVID shopping habits

Data: The New Normal; Google Trends; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

As the pandemic enters its third year, some of America's COVID-era shopping habits — including strong demand for tequila and sweatpants — are here to stay.

Driving the news: Axios worked with Google Trends and the Schema Design firm to create The New Normal, which analyzes the products Americans have Googled since 2020. Items with a lasting increase in search interest help fill in the details of what our "new normal" looks like.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: You can start ordering free COVID tests Wednesday — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy — Biden deploying military medical staff to help overwhelmed hospitals.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— Nurses across the U.S. strike against COVID working conditions— CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: Biden admin threatens to take back Arizona's COVID aid over anti-mask rules — Students across U.S. walkout of classes to demand safer COVID protocols — West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker

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