FCC chair proposes reinstating Obama-era net neutrality rules

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said on Tuesday that she plans to put forward a proposal to reinstate net neutrality rules that were repealed under former President Trump.

The proposal would bar broadband providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, from blocking or throttling internet traffic to some websites and speeding up access to others that pay extra.

It would also block internet providers from “unreasonably interfering or unreasonably disadvantaging consumers from going where they want and doing what they want on the internet,” Rosenworcel said.

She pointed to the public’s heavy reliance on the internet throughout the pandemic in announcing the push to reinstate net neutrality rules, which were first approved by the commission under former President Obama in 2015.

“[The pandemic] made crystal clear that broadband is no longer just nice to have,” Rosenworcel said in remarks at the National Press Club. “It’s needs to have for everyone, everywhere. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It is essential infrastructure for modern life.”

“No one without it has a fair shot at 21st century success,” she continued. “We need broadband to reach 100 percent of us, and we need it to be fast, open and fair.”

The move by the FCC comes after the Senate confirmed Anna Gomez to serve on the commission earlier this month, filling its fifth and final spot and breaking a deadlock between Republican and Democratic commissioners. Gomez was sworn in on Monday.

Rosenworcel said she plans to release the full text of the proposal on Thursday and bring it to a vote in mid-October, which would kick off the rulemaking process. 

She emphasized that the proposed net neutrality rules are largely the same as those approved during the Obama administration, which were ultimately rolled back when the FCC came under Republican leadership in 2017.

“I believe this repeal of net neutrality put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the American public,” Rosenworcel said. “It was not good then, and it makes even less sense now.”

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