FCC To Reinstate Net Neutrality, Classify Broadband as a Telecommunications Service

In its most predictable decision ever, the FCC is going to use its April 25, 2024, meeting to approve a Declaratory Ruling, Order, Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration in Docket 23-320 to once again make Net Neutrality the law of the land.  The Commission’s actions will almost certainly be appealed to the federal courts with the Supreme Court likely to make the final determination.  Such appeals take time, however, thus unless a court issues a stay of the Commission Order, which is unlikely, ISPS will have to live with Net Neutrality, possibly for years.

The agency claims it must broadly control the Internet:

High-speed Internet connections are indispensable to every aspect of our daily lives, from work, education, and healthcare, to commerce, community, communication, and free expression.  Since the Commission’s abdication of authority over broadband in 2017, there has been no federal oversight over this vital service. This item would reestablish the Commission’s authority to protect consumers and safeguard the fair and open Internet, which protects free expression, encourages competition and innovation, and is critical to public safety and national security. (FCC April 4, 2024, News Release)

Here are the details of the actions the FCC will be taking:

Declaratory Ruling and Order

Classify broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service and classify mobile broadband Internet access service as a commercial mobile service.

Find that reclassification would provide the Commission with additional authority to safeguard national security, advance public safety, protect consumers, and facilitate broadband deployment.

Find that classification of broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service represents the best reading of the text of the Telecommunications Act, and that such reclassification accords with Commission and court precedent and is fully justified under the Commission’s longstanding authority to classify services subject to its jurisdiction.

Establish broad, tailored forbearance—including no rate regulation, no tariffing, no unbundling of last-mile facilities, and no cost accounting rules—in the Commission’s application of Title II to broadband Internet access service providers.

Report and Order

Reinstate straightforward, clear Net Neutrality rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid or affiliated prioritization arrangements, and adopt certain enhancements to the transparency rule.

Reinstate a general conduct standard that prohibits unreasonable interference or unreasonable disadvantage to consumers or edge providers.

Make clear that the Commission will employ a case-by-case review under sections 201 and 202 to ensure that Internet traffic exchange practices do not harm the open Internet.

Establish a multi-faceted enforcement framework comprised of advisory opinions, enforcement advisories, Commission-initiated investigations, and informal and formal complaints.

Order on Reconsideration

Partially grant and otherwise dismiss as moot several petitions for reconsideration filed in response to the Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) Remand Order.

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr will vote no on April 25th and trashes the Commission and the Biden Administration.

Today, the FCC announced that the Commission will vote on April 25 to further expand the government’s power over the Internet.  It will do so by implementing President Biden’s call for the FCC to impose utility-style “net neutrality” regulations on the Internet through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This decision follows the five-member FCC’s partisan, 3-2 vote last October to seek public comment on this action.  And it comes on the heels of President Biden’s demand that the FCC give the Administrative State new controls over the Internet through “digital equity” rules, which the agency did last November through a party-line vote.  All of these steps are part of the Biden Administration’s plan for expanding government control of the Internet. I oppose President Biden’s plan.  The American people want more freedom on the Internet—not freewheeling micromanagement by government bureaucrats (Brendan Carr, April 3. 2024 Release).

We will have much more to say about Net Neutrality and the reclassification of broadband Internet access service to a Title II telecommunications service once the Commission’s final rules are established on April 25.