FTC Reinstates Net Neutrality, Preventing Broadband Provider Bias


In a key stride taken on Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted to reinstate the pivotal “net neutrality” regulations, which operate as a safeguard against broadband internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon, ensuring they do not favor some apps and webpages over others.

This decision resiliently echoes the net neutrality command that the commission initially introduced in 2015, amid the Obama administration saga. But in a twist of fate, under the subsequent presidency of Donald Trump in 2017, these very rules were overturned by the FCC.

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Thursday’s judgment witnessed a strict adherence to party loyalty, passing on a 3-2 vote drawn across political lines. Democratic commissioners advocating in favor of the mandate, while their Republican counterparts standing in opposition.

At its core, net neutrality mandates internet service providers to extend equal treatment to all internet traffic, thereby curbing any emerging incentives to favor business affiliates, or strategically stunt competitors. As expounded upon by the public interest cohort, Public Knowledge, net neutrality is the “essential principle that your lifeline to the internet must not morph into a puppeteer controlling your virtual sphere”.

These guidelines cease any manipulation tactics that could attempt to throttle or block access to certain apps and webpages, or cunningly reserve superior speeds for clientele readily willing to pay an added premium for such services.

Addressing the virtual world ahead of the vote, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel outlined, “In our post-pandemic reality, it becomes increasingly evident that broadband is a keystone necessity, not a leisurely luxury.”

Despite nearly a seven-year lapse since the FCC’s rebuttal to previously established net neutrality regulations, its restoration appears unlikely to make waves in users’ online engagement. This subdued transition being largely attributed to John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge’s legal director, as several states had previously introduced their unassailable net neutrality standards prior to 2015. In defiance of the FCC’s U-turn in 2017, these states maintained their staunch adherence to their initial net neutrality rules.

Bergmayer disclosed, “Indeed some of the most egregious offenses by internet providers were successfully thwarted by vigilant state-level regulation and oversight.”

Some states, such as California, took an even bolder stance and outlawed a manipulation tactic known as “zero rating”. This practice would enable a mobile provider to create a clandestine business agreement that diverts users towards a specific streaming service, by offering it without any attendant data charges. Other territories that boast powerful net neutrality rules are Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, revealed Bergmayer.

Coupled with the revocation of “net neutrality” came the unanimous disapproval from the telecommunications industry, as it has in the past, vehemently condemning them as unnecessary governmental intrusion into business decisions.