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FCC Reasserts Its Authority To Protect The Open Internet

Above photo: Federal Communication Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, then a commissioner, rallies against repeal of net neutrality rules in December 2017. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

And Safeguard Online Users.

Washington, DC – On Thursday, in a 3–2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission voted to restore Net Neutrality protections and reclassify high-speed-internet access services as telecom services subject to Title II of the Communications Act.

The decision is a major victory for the public interest: Title II authority empowers the FCC to hold companies like AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon accountable for a wide range of harms to internet users across the United States. Prior to the historic vote, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said: “[We] take this action today to help ensure that broadband is fast, open and fair for all of us.”

Since the Trump FCC repealed open-internet protections in 2017, people from across the political spectrum have called on the agency to reinstate Net Neutrality and assert the agency’s authority to prevent broadband providers from harming online users.

Free Press Co-CEO Craig Aaron said:

“Everyone should celebrate today’s FCC vote. Public support for Net Neutrality is overwhelming, and people understand why we need a federal watchdog to protect everyone’s access to the most essential communications platform of our time. The FCC heard the outcry and did its job: delivering on promises to stand with internet users and against big telecom companies and their trade groups, which have spent untold millions of dollars to spread lies about Net Neutrality and thwart any oversight or regulation.

“We’ve been fighting for this moment since well before the Trump FCC threw out strong Title II rules in 2017. It’s been nearly 20 years since Net Neutrality first came under threat. In the time since, the debate over Net Neutrality, like the internet itself, has evolved. But the central concern remains the same: Does the FCC have the authority, vested in Title II of the Communications Act, to step in when internet service providers treat their customers unjustly by blocking or interfering with the free flow of information online? Today, the FCC answered that question with a resounding yes.

“Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Anna Gomez today reversed the Trump FCC’s gutting of these essential protections, and ensured that the agency can once again protect internet users whenever big phone and cable companies like AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon attempt to harm them. By restoring the essential safeguards that millions fought so hard to make a reality, the FCC will once again follow the law that Congress wrote for modern internet-access service, reestablishing its oversight of the vital telecommunications service that connects all of us.

“This is common sense: The nation’s communications regulator must be able to oversee the nation’s communications infrastructure. Congress has already given the FCC the tools it needs to make the internet work better for everyone. After today’s vote, the FCC can actually use them. Under the agency’s strong but flexible rules, every ISP will be responsible for making resilient networks available to people on just and reasonable terms. The agency now has the ability to protect internet users from ISPs’ privacy invasions, promote broadband competition and deployment, and take action against hidden junk fees, data caps and billing rip-offs.

“Big cable and phone companies won’t be able to pick and choose what any of us can say or see online. Net Neutrality is a guarantee that these companies will carry our data across the internet without undue interference or unreasonable discrimination. Without this clear authority over broadband access, the FCC was vastly weakened, having to implore broadband providers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to agree to voluntary and toothless pledges to protect internet users — pledges many of these companies failed to uphold.

“We’re especially grateful to Chairwoman Rosenworcel and her staff for leading this effort to restore these essential rights to internet users, as well as for the strong support of Commissioners Starks and Gomez. Today’s decision shows a government agency doing what it’s supposed to do: Listen to the public and stand up for them against rich and powerful companies that for too long have called all the shots in D.C.

“Despite the many obstacles Net Neutrality advocates have faced, we are celebrating today’s vote. This is what democracy should look like: public servants responding to public sentiment, taking steps to protect just and reasonable services and free expression, and showing that the government is capable of defending the public interest.”

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