Above Photo: Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post / Getty Images.
Washington, DC — On Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, to enact measures protecting internet users against the anti-competitive practices of large telecommunications and internet companies.
In the order, Biden calls on the FCC to “restore Net Neutrality rules undone by the [Trump] administration.” In 2017, the agency under then-Chairman Ajit Pai repealed the Open Internet Order and abandoned the FCC’s jurisdiction over broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.
Today’s executive order also calls on the FCC to require more transparency from broadband providers about their prices and terms of service, and to examine the impact of early termination fees and other punitive practices imposed on broadband customers.
Biden’s order is consistent with his campaign pledge to restore these vital protections. However, FCC action on these and other key priorities cannot occur until after the president nominates and the Senate confirms a fifth commissioner for the open position at the agency, giving Democrats the 3–2 advantage they would need to successfully advance many crucial matters.
Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:
“We’re grateful that President Biden remains committed to promoting broadband competition and protecting the open internet, and the steps suggested in the executive order are necessary but not yet a done deal.
“The executive order is important, but the processes and personnel to actually move ahead on these priorities are not in place yet. Right now the FCC is deadlocked at two Democratic and two Republican votes; the agency needs a fifth commissioner to fully function. And the broadband-infrastructure bill under negotiation now in the Senate needs to set the country up for success, too, by providing robust and flexible funding for people who have broadband available to them today but cannot afford it without support.
“The FCC needs to reverse the damage done by the Trump administration, which presided over rising prices and declining investment in broadband while pretending that a do-nothing deregulatory approach would solve these problems.
“The agency must return to its proper authority in Title II, using all its available tools to bring more competitive choice to the wired-broadband market especially. While it’s clear and undeniable that broadband prices are on the rise, the FCC needs better data on what individuals are actually paying each month, and it needs to prevent abusive practices and price gouging.
“Reclassifying broadband as a Title II service is the only way to give internet users the legal protections they need to access an open and affordable internet. Title II provides the foundation for popular Net Neutrality safeguards, and also gives the agency the authority to promote competition, encourage better prices and ensure that vital programs like Lifeline can support broadband too.
“When the Trump FCC abandoned the proper legal framework and policies in 2017, people of every political stripe overwhelmingly opposed that repeal. When we finally have a full and functioning FCC dedicated to promoting the public interest again, the agency can get the job done — taking the kinds of steps outlined in today’s executive order and more.”