The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to begin a process to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality laws.
In reestablishing the rules, the FCC would have more ability to regulate the Internet by preventing broadband providers from engaging in harmful practices to consumers, such as blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.
During a Thursday meeting the commission in favor of beginning the process to restore the rules in the first meeting with a Democratic majority under President Biden, after a two-year hold up over a prior FCC nominee.
The Senate confirmed Democratic Chair Anna Gomez in September, setting in place FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s ability to carry out Democrat’s agenda.
The proposal adopted Thursday aims to reestablish the FCC’s authority over broadband internet access by classifying it as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.
It would reestablish the framework the FCC adopted in 2015, which was repealed in 2018 under the Trump administration.
Rosenworcel said the need for protections were underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed more aspects of work and personal life online.
“In the wake of the pandemic, we know that broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. That’s why we made a historic commitment to connecting all of us to broadband. Now we have work to do to make sure that it’s fast, open and fair,” Rosenworcel said.
Rosenworcel said the proposal would help ensure public safety, national security, cybersecurity and privacy.
Rosenworcel, Gomez and Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks voted in favor of the proposal.
The two Republican commissioners, Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington, voted in opposition.
Simington called the rules “unnecessary,” “dangerously overbroad” and “unlikely to serve the public interest.”
Carr called it a “failed” experiment under the Obama administration. In a statement released Wednesday, Carr said the average fixed download speeds and average mobile download speeds in the US have increased since 2017, citing Ookla data,
Rosenworcel said “cries that nothing has happened since the FCC retreated from net neutrality” are not accurate.
She said restoring the rules will establish a “uniform legal framework” for the whole country, instead of the state-by-state rules that came in the wake of the 2018 repeal.
“So in effect, we have open internet policies that providers are abiding by right now, they are just coming from Sacramento and places like it. But when you are dealing with the most essential infrastructure in the digital age, come on, it’s time for a national policy,” she said.