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FCC Restores Its Responsibility To Oversee Corporate Control Of Internet

Listeners will know that the FCC has been ineffectual for some time, because it’s been short of full staffing. Big media players torpedoed, with the most scurrilous of means, the nomination of public interest advocate Gigi Sohn, but eventually Biden nominee Anna Gomez was sworn in as fifth commissioner.

In the wake of that, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel has now announced that the FCC is to be an active player again.

At the National Press Club this week, Rosenworcel (9/26/23) said that the FCC will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its next meeting in mid-October. And they will center the role of Title II, the part of federal communications law that gives the agency the power to even go about overseeing corporate control of the internet: to push against price gouging, anti-privacy moves, access-throttling—the whole range of things that makes people hate their internet service providers, and makes it a less hospitable arena for activism and organizing. That’s before you even get to whether they are allowed to shut off service during crises like Covid.

The FCC, under the sway of corporations and their lobbyists, abandoned that responsibility years ago, under former chair Ajit Pai, appointed by Donald Trump based on his career as a lawyer for Verizon.

With Title II invigorated, the FCC can engage net neutrality rules—which prevent internet service providers from slowing access for those that don’t pony up, and speeding it along for those that do. All of which machinations we as end-users may not be aware of, but that will absolutely affect what we see and know and act on.

Net neutrality has always been overwhelmingly supported by the US public. Few wonder anymore whether broadband access is a fundamental right, like water or electricity—or whether you should lose access if you live in an underserved area, rural or urban.

But corporate powers and government enablers have shown they will work very hard to prevent it; remember Ajit Pai pretending that the FCC couldn’t acknowledge the flood of public comments it got because, um… technical sabotage…that turned out to be a brazen lie?

Net neutrality, backed by the FCC’s Title II authorization, is nothing less than the ability to monitor and regulate hugely powerful companies’ control over an essential element of public life—the ability to inform yourself, communicate, participate socially and politically.

In other words, expect pushback, both loud and subtle. We’ve already seen headlines like the Wall Street Journal’s suggestion (9/26/23) that a “Newly Empowered FCC Chair Moves to Rekindle Net Neutrality Fight Between Tech and Telecom Giants.”

Fighting? That’s bad. And who cares about a fight between tech and telecom giants?

There is something very important for all of us at stake here. So look out for coverage that suggests otherwise.

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