WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is expected to announce plans to begin an agency proceeding to restore the FCC’s authority under Title II of the Communications Act to oversee broadband providers and enforce the open-internet protections that were stripped away during the Trump administration.
In a speech at the National Press Club, Rosenworcel will reportedly state her intention to introduce a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” during the agency’s October 19 Open Meeting. The agency has a full complement of commissioners following the swearing in of Anna Gomez on Monday, and the 3-2 Democratic majority it needs to begin the proceeding.
Since the Trump-era FCC repealed the agency’s Open Internet Order in 2017, people from across the country and the political spectrum have called on the agency to reinstate its authority over broadband access. In 2019, a federal court said the Trump-FCC repeal was “unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service” and violated the commission’s duty to protect public safety. Roseworcel’s Tuesday announcement will fulfill earlier commitments she had made to protect Net Neutrality and assert the agency’s authority to prevent broadband providers from engaging in practices that harm online users
Millions of people wrote the FCC in 2017 urging Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, to abandon his plan to gut the Net Neutrality rules established during the Obama administration. But Pai ignored the public consensus and stripped away these basic safeguards. Public polling in 2022 shows majorities of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters reject the Trump administration repeal and support reinstating the FCC’s authority. In recent years, the phone and cable companies that provide broadband access for most have routinely ranked at the bottom of customer-service satisfaction indices.
Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said:
“We applaud FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel for getting right to work on protecting broadband consumers now that we have a full FCC. Reinstating the agency’s Title II authority is a top priority because it will allow the FCC to ensure that all Americans — no matter their location or their demographics — have affordable, reliable and safe internet connections free from discrimination, blocking or other ISP manipulation.
“When the Trump FCC ditched its Title II authority, it walked out on its job of overseeing the most important communications infrastructure of our era. Without Title II the agency lacks a clear ability to protect the public against abuses by large, monopoly-minded broadband access providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. Without Title II, broadband users are left vulnerable to discrimination, content throttling, dwindling competition, extortionate and monopolistic prices, billing fraud and other shady behavior. Internet users are taking notice that their access providers are acting without any public accountability — and, as popular polling shows, are eager to return the watchdog to safeguard the public interest.
“One thing we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that broadband is essential infrastructure — it enables us to access education, employment, healthcare and more. And yet, the U.S. regulatory agency charged with oversight of this utility lacks the authority it needs to be on the lookout for internet users and ensure that the network is fully deployed and resilient to climate change and other disasters.
“As this proceeding gets under way, we will hear all manner of lies from the lobbyists and lawyers representing big phone and cable companies. They'll say that Title II’s common-carriage standard is a heavy-handed regulation that will undermine investment in new broadband deployment; in reality, capital expenditures by these companies increased under Net Neutrality rules, and declined after the Dec. 2017 Trump FCC repeal. They'll say open-internet protections are a solution in search of a problem; in reality, there's an extensive history of the sorts of industry abuses that Title II oversight would keep in check.
“They'll say anything and everything to avoid being held accountable. But broadband providers and their spin doctors are deeply out of touch with people across the political spectrum, who are fed up with high prices and unreliable services. These people demand a referee on the field to call fouls and issue penalties when broadband companies are being unfair.
“We look forward to helping the FCC fix Trump-era mistakes and return these basic protections to the people who use the internet every day. With Title II back in place internet users will be able to log on knowing that their broadband provider won't violate their online rights without being held to account.”