Save the date: FCC plans April vote to restore net neutrality protections

Save the date: FCC plans April vote to restore net neutrality protections

The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that it will finally be voting on whether to restore net neutrality protections that were repealed under the Trump administration. 

The move would once again allow the FCC to, among other things, prevent internet service providers from  throttling, blocking, or creating paid prioritization models for internet access and speeds.

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers, such as  Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, should treat all internet content equally. This means they should not restrict access, block, or degrade the speeds of service to things like websites or applications. Regulations that were implemented under President Barack Obama in 2015 were intended to protect consumers from large telecom companies charging more money to access services or applications that had deals with those companies or by reducing the performance of a competitor’s services.

“After the prior administration abdicated authority over broadband services, the FCC has been handcuffed from acting to fully secure broadband networks, protect consumer data, and ensure the internet remains fast, open, and fair,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “A return to the FCC’s overwhelmingly popular and court-approved standard of net neutrality will allow the agency to serve once again as a strong consumer advocate of an open internet.” 

In 2017, a Morning Consult poll found that 66% of respondents supported rules to protect neutrality. However, that didn’t stop the FCC under Donald Trump from ultimately repealing those protections.  

Tom Wheeler, who chaired the FCC under Obama, wrote last year that the challenges posed in creating net neutrality rules was not simply one of consumer protections but a much larger one concerning how “the nation’s most important network has no public interest supervision.” 

While some consumer protections are better than no protections, Barbara Schewick, a Stanford law professor and expert on net neutrality, cautions that the new proposed rule “misses some critical protections in the 2015 Order, creating potential loopholes for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to exploit.” 

Schewick submitted her concerns to the FCC, with more detail about how the language of the newest proposal leaves open the kind of wiggle room big businesses like to take advantage of.

The FCC’s vote on restoring net neutrality is set for April 25.

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