Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Net neutrality is back: FCC bars broadband providers from meddling with internet speed

Internet service providers can no longer fiddle with how quickly — or not — customers are able to browse the web or download files, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Thursday.

The 3-2 vote to adopt net neutrality regulations, which block wireless companies from selectively speeding up, slowing down or blocking users’ internet traffic, restores a policy that was discarded during the Trump administration.

The reversal also paves the way for a legal fight with the broadband industry. The development is the latest in a years-long feud between regulators and ISPs, with the former arguing that protections are necessary to ensure all websites are treated the same, and the latter rejecting the rules as government overstep. 

In first proposing the revived rule in September, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency wanted to expand high-speed internet access and protect personal data. Net neutrality was first passed by the agency in 2015, but was later rescinded in 2017 under then-FCC Chair Ajit Pai.

Consumer advocates cheered the reversal, with advocacy group Fight for the Future calling it a win for activists and civil rights groups who have argued that the regulation is needed to ensure telecom companies treat customers equally. 

For instance, companies won’t be able to impose additional fees for some sites to load faster than others, akin to toll lanes on the internet, under net neutrality.

“People from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree they don’t want their phone company to dictate how they use the Internet,” said Fight for the Future director Evan Greer in a statement. “We are thrilled that the FCC is finally reclaiming its responsibility to protect consumers from the worst harms of big telecom.”

USTelecom, however, blasted the FCC vote, with the trade group’s president and CEO, Jonathan Spalter, calling net neutrality a “nonissue for broadband customers, who have enjoyed an open internet for decades.” 

Republican commissioners at the FCC also derided the new rules, with one, Brendan Carr, declaring “the internet in America has thrived in the absence of 1930s command-and-control regulation by the government.”

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