After six years without net neutrality rules, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reportedly ready to bring them back. The FCC chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, is expected to announce the agency’s plans on Tuesday. Net neutrality is the principle that all internet data should be treated equally, without any unfair blocking or throttling of content. The FCC first established these rules in 2015, but they were repealed during the tenure of former FCC commissioner Ajit Pai. The reinstatement of net neutrality rules would require a vote and a period of public comment, which could be delayed by legal action from internet service providers (ISPs).
The potential revival of net neutrality rules is seen as a victory for internet advocates who have long argued for equal treatment of all data on the internet. The FCC’s plans come after the recent approval of new commissioner Anna Gomez, giving Democrats a 3-2 majority on total FCC decision-making. There are currently no details on how the FCC plans to restore the rules on ISPs, but a combative stance from Chairwoman Rosenworcel could lead to a prolonged battle against major ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. The FCC’s decision will have significant implications for the future of the internet, as it will determine whether ISPs can prioritize certain traffic or block access to certain websites.
The reinstatement of net neutrality rules has been a contentious issue ever since they were repealed in 2017. Former FCC commissioner Ajit Pai argued that eliminating data protections would be beneficial for companies and result in increased employment. However, this claim was debunked, and critics argued that it allowed ISPs to have greater control and potentially exploit their power. President Joe Biden’s inauguration marked the departure of Pai and the continued effort to appoint a replacement commissioner. Congressional Democrats have also been unsuccessful in passing net neutrality legislation, although some senators introduced their own bill in 2022 to reclassify broadband as an essential service. As the FCC moves forward with its plans, it is expected that ISPs will challenge the reinstatement of net neutrality rules through legal action.