The Necessity of Broadband: A Renewed Net Neutrality Initiative Argues its Importance Equivalent to Utilities

by Sophia Chen
Net Neutrality

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may reinstate pivotal net neutrality regulations that were repealed during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. Under the leadership of FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, the objective is to categorize broadband as a critical service, akin to essential utilities such as electricity and water.

At a gathering hosted by the National Press Club, Rosenworcel articulated that universal and affordable internet access is insufficient in the modern era. She stated, “An open internet is essential for everyone, everywhere, to fully harness the advantages offered by the digital age.”

The forthcoming regulations intend to restore both fixed and mobile broadband services to their classification as an essential telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. These regulations would forbid internet service providers from deliberately impeding or reducing legal Internet traffic and from charging premiums for prioritized network access.

This development follows the Democratic Party securing a majority within the five-member FCC board, a first since President Joe Biden assumed office in January 2021. The shift occurred with the swearing-in of new FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez.

The FCC plans to solicit public opinions on the proposed regulations through a vote scheduled for October.

Understanding Net Neutrality

Net neutrality rules act as a safeguard against telecom giants that might otherwise inhibit or slow down applications that compete with their own services. Major telecommunications companies have been staunch opponents of these regulations, arguing in court that such rules stifle broadband investment and create uncertainties in operational guidelines.

Historical Context of Net Neutrality

The term “net neutrality” was conceived in 2003 by Tim Wu, a law professor currently at Columbia University. Wu advocated for governmental regulations aimed at preventing large internet service providers from prejudicial actions against technologies or services that might be in conflict with their business objectives. Such bias, Wu contended, would stifle innovation.

In 2015, the FCC, in a partisan vote, approved regulations that prevented cable and telephone companies from manipulating online traffic. For instance, with these rules in effect, a provider like Comcast was prohibited from charging Netflix for faster access to its customer base or from intentionally slowing or blocking its service.

The 2015 net neutrality rules also granted the FCC the authority to pursue actions against companies for unexplicitly banned business practices. For example, the FCC under the Obama administration argued that AT&T’s “zero-rating” practices violated net neutrality principles by exempting its own video application from cellular data limits.

In 2016, a federal appeals court sustained these regulations despite lawsuits from broadband providers. However, the FCC abandoned these Obama-era guidelines in 2017, signaling a stark shift away from over a decade of federal regulatory oversight.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Net Neutrality

What is the main objective of the proposed net neutrality regulations?

The primary aim of the new proposed net neutrality rules is to reclassify both fixed and mobile broadband services as essential telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. This would forbid internet service providers from intentionally slowing down or blocking lawful internet traffic and prevent them from offering premium, faster access lanes for additional payment.

Who is spearheading the renewed push for net neutrality?

The renewed effort for net neutrality is being led by the current chair of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Jessica Rosenworcel.

What significant event occurred that made the push for new net neutrality rules possible?

The Democratic Party recently secured a majority within the FCC’s five-member board for the first time since President Joe Biden took office. This became possible with the swearing-in of new FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez.

What is the FCC’s next step regarding the proposed regulations?

The FCC plans to hold a vote in October to initiate a period for public comments on the proposed net neutrality rules.

What does net neutrality aim to prevent?

Net neutrality aims to prevent internet service providers from discriminating against or favoring certain kinds of internet traffic. This includes actions like blocking, throttling, or creating “fast lanes” for specific services in exchange for additional fees.

What is the historical context of net neutrality?

The term “net neutrality” was coined in 2003 by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu. He advocated for governmental regulations that would prevent large internet service providers from biased actions against technologies or services that might compete or conflict with their own business objectives.

What happened to the net neutrality rules established in 2015?

The 2015 net neutrality rules, which were approved by the FCC, were aimed at preventing cable and telephone companies from manipulating internet traffic. These rules were upheld by a federal appeals court in 2016 but were later repealed by the FCC in 2017.

How do major telecom companies view net neutrality regulations?

Major telecommunications companies have generally been opposed to net neutrality regulations. They argue that such rules can hinder investment in broadband infrastructure and introduce uncertainties about acceptable business practices.

More about Net Neutrality

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Mike J September 27, 2023 - 8:28 am

Wow, so net neutrality’s back on the table huh? about time! we’ve seen what happens when ISPs get too much power, not good for anyone but them

Steve O September 27, 2023 - 11:55 am

Telecom companies always fightin regulations but honestly, we need some rules. else it’s the wild west out there on the web.

Greg P September 27, 2023 - 12:05 pm

I’ll believe it when i see it. Too many times they’ve said they’ll do something, and then it just falls apart. Hope im wrong this time.

Julia M September 27, 2023 - 1:59 pm

Democratic majority in the FCC could really change the game. fingers crossed that this goes through.

Sarah K September 27, 2023 - 9:21 pm

Is it just me, or does it feel like the govt’s playing ping-pong with our internet rights? One day it’s this, next day it’s that. Make up your mind!

Linda G September 27, 2023 - 10:15 pm

Had to dig deep into history to understand this net neutrality thing. Good to see the 2015 rules being revisited, was a mistake to repeal em in the first place.

Tony B September 27, 2023 - 10:40 pm

Rosenworcel’s got the right idea. The internet’s a utility, period. Just like water and electricity, can’t live without it these days.


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