FCC restores net neutrality order, but court challenges loom large

The FCC voted on Thursday, April 25th along party lines to pass its order on Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet, restoring net neutrality and reestablishing the Commission’s Title II authority over broadband services.  The restored “net neutrality” rules prevent broadband internet service providers/ISPs (e.g. Comcast and AT&T) from favoring some sites and apps over others.  The vote was taken at the FCC’s open meeting for the month of April.  Democrats on the FCC voted to restore net neutrality and Title II rules. The issue will face inevitable court challenges and is likely to be reversed if Donald Trump wins the November presidential election.

As a result of the vote, the FCC restores fundamental authority to provide effective oversight over broadband service providers, giving the Commission essential tools to:

Protect the Open Internet – Internet service providers will again be prohibited from blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content, restoring the rules that were upheld by the D.C. Circuit in 2016.

Safeguard National Security – The Commission will have the ability to revoke the authorizations of foreign-owned entities who pose a threat to national security to operate broadband networks in the U.S. The Commission has previously exercised this authority under section 214 of the Communications Act to revoke the operating authorities of four Chinese state-owned carriers to provide voice services in the U.S. Any provider without section 214 authorization for voice services must now also cease any fixed or mobile broadband service operations in the United States.

Monitor Internet Service Outages – When workers cannot telework, students cannot study, or businesses cannot market their products because their internet service is out, the FCC can now play an active role.

Here are a few FCC commissioner comments:

“Broadband is now an essential service. Essential services, the ones we count on in every aspect of modern life, have some basic oversight. So let’s be clear about what we are doing today. This agency, the nation’s leading communications authority, believes every consumer deserves Internet access that is fast, open and fair. That is why we determine that the Federal Communications Commission should be able to assist consumers and take action when it comes to the most important communications of our time. And that’s broadband. This is common sense,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel presides at the FCC’s open meeting on Thursday, April 25, 2024.(SOURCE: FCC LIVESTREAM)

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr offered a different opinion during a nearly 35-minute diatribe: 

“Today’s order is not about correcting a market failure. Broadband access is more vibrant and competitive than ever, no matter how you slice the reams of data,” said Carr. “Will ISPs invest as intensely when the rules of the road are opaque, when business choices can be second guessed without notice, when regulators reserve the right to dictate the rate of return or when upgrades and innovations require more and more paperwork and approvals? Uncertainty riddles every aspect of this order … I’m confident that we will right the ship, and I’m certain that the courts will overturn this unlawful power grab.”

The vote drew expected reactions from industry and consumer groups. Those in favor of the ruling celebrated, while still expressing dissatisfaction with a few “shortcomings” of the order.  Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society said:

“Today’s vote provides welcome, if long overdue, protections for all Americans. Despite a few shortcomings, this is the most important thing the FCC can do to promote free speech, competition, public safety, and national security.  The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society would have preferred that the Commission continued the debate on whether or not broadband providers should contribute to the Universal Service Fund and that it had taken a more proactive stance toward wireless companies’ efforts to create loopholes to avoid regulation of some 5G services. But those shortcomings do not change the fact that today is a great day for internet freedom.”

On the opposition front, industry trade groups called the rules “heavy-handed” and indicated their intent to file lawsuits.

“ACA Connects will continue to support efforts, including litigation, to overturn these heavy-handed, unnecessary utility-style regulations, which only serve to discourage development of robust and reliable broadband service for all Americans,” said Grant Spellmeyer, president and CEO of ACA Connects, in an emailed statement.

“WISPA is disappointed by today’s action to impose utility regulation on the broadband industry,” said Louis Peraertz, VP of policy for the fixed wireless trade group WISPA–The Association for Broadband Without Boundaries. “Once the final Order is published, WISPA will carefully review it and determine what legal recourse we should take in order to ensure that our members can continue to provide their local communities with reliable high speed broadband service.”





Analysis: FCC attempt to restore Net Neutrality & U.S. standards for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection

FCC Draft Net Neutrality Order reclassifies broadband access; leaves 5G network slicing unresolved

FCC Votes to Reverse Net Neutrality & No Longer Regulate Broadband Internet Services

One thought on “FCC restores net neutrality order, but court challenges loom large

  1. AT&T is now charging mobile customers an additional $7 per month for faster wireless data speeds with a new “Turbo” add-on. AT&T says the add-on is “built to support high-performance mobile applications, like gaming, social video broadcasting, and live video conferencing, with optimised data while customers are on the go.”

    The new fee comes just a week after the FCC voted to restore net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or paid prioritisation that favours some internet traffic over others.

    AT&T claims the Turbo add-on “boosts all the high-speed and hotspot data on a user’s connection,” though the company notes the speed increase will be more noticeable for certain data-intensive applications.

    The $7 monthly charge applies to each individual line on an account, meaning customers with multiple lines will need to pay the Turbo fee for each one to receive the speed boost.

    The Turbo tier is only available for 5G phones on certain “unlimited” AT&T plans. To enable different service levels, the carrier is utilising Quality of Service Class Identifiers (QCIs) – all eligible plans will be moved to QCI 8, while customers who pay for Turbo will be bumped up to the higher priority QCI 7 tier. QCI 6 is reserved for public safety professionals on AT&T’s FirstNet service.

    AT&T’s add-on has raised questions about whether the new fee structure violates the FCC’s revived net neutrality principles against paid prioritisation that disadvantages certain internet traffic.

    Some consumer advocates had urged the FCC to explicitly prohibit such practices, warning that carriers might charge consumers premium fees to provide speed boosts for gaming, video streaming, and other data-heavy applications while leaving other services in a slower tier.

    The FCC could potentially view AT&T’s new Turbo fee as akin to how home internet providers charge different prices for various speed tiers—a longstanding industry practice. But the agency may also examine whether creating separate, paid service tiers for mobile data harms broadband quality for users who don’t pay extra.


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