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FCC Chairwoman Proposes Return To Net Neutrality Rules

The chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a return to net neutrality rules that were abandoned during the Trump administration, according to an announcement released on Tuesday.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers to allow access to all websites and content providers at the same rates and speeds, regardless of their size or content. After an effort led by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reversed them in 2018, the current Democratic chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, announced on Tuesday that the commission would consider a proposal to reinstate the rules, with a vote being scheduled on Oct. 19, according to an announcement and fact sheet posted on its website.

“In the wake of the pandemic and the generational investment in internet access, we have a window to update our policies to make sure that the internet is not only open, but [also] fast and fair, safe and secure,” wrote Rosenworcel in a statement included with the announcement. “Now is the time for our rules of the road for internet service providers to reflect the reality that internet access is a necessity for daily life.”

Rosenworcel’s push to reinstate net neutrality rules comes one day after Biden’s latest appointee to the commission, Anna M. Gomez, took office following Senate confirmation. Gomez’s appointment gives Democrats a 3-2 majority on the five-member body, which by law cannot have more than three commissioners be members of the same political party.

Republicans have opposed net neutrality on the grounds that it allegedly entails excessive regulation of the internet and makes the internet slower and less accessible. Pai argued that the decision to impose such rules, which were introduced in 2015 under the Obama administration, was “a mistake.”

“The main complaint consumers have about the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet service provider is blocking access to content. It’s that they don’t have access at all or enough competition.  These regulations have taken us in the opposite direction from these consumer preferences,” Pai said in a speech in 2017, according to The Verge. “The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers.  They don’t have the time, money, or lawyers to navigate a thicket of complex rules.”

In the fact sheet released on Tuesday, the Democratic-led commission wrote that “[t]he internet is too important to our society and economy not to have effective oversight.” It added that reinstating rules for net neutrality was important to defend national security and advance public safety.

“Without this authority, no federal agency can effectively monitor or help with broadband outages that threaten jobs, health, education, and safety,” it wrote. Conservatives have argued that the absence of net neutrality rules were essential during the Covid-19 pandemic to accommodate increased use of the internet during lockdowns.

“Some regulatory frameworks experienced severe challenges to guarantee access to the Internet. Both providers and regulators had no choice but to break net neutrality rules during the pandemic,” wrote the authors of a study published by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The FCC’s announcement does not mean the rules will be imposed immediately, with a lengthy administrative process being required to implement the rules if the full commission votes to approve the proposed rules during their Oct.19 meeting.

Pai did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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