Net Neutrality Likely to Return in 2021

In 2017, the net neutrality bill caused a huge controversy among most U.S. internet service users, since it allows telecom companies such as Verizon and Comcast to charge depending on the type of content their clients visit, though it’s important to mention that it doesn’t necessarily mean they are or will, as stated by the former commissioner of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Ajit Pai, in whose term the Net Neutrality principle was abolished.

Now, after Biden’s appointment of Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair FCC commissioner belonging to the democratic party, net neutrality is possibly returning, however, it could take some time and effort to bring it back.

The FCC currently stands a tie with two votes from each group, so until president Biden appoints a new commissioner that breaks the tie, the process will remain halted. This doesn’t mean that this new commissioner is going to vote in favor of net neutrality, but it’s a likely outcome if he appoints a democrat.

Reviving NN is a major change that could have a lot of challenges, here’s some background about the laws behind a possible change:

In 2015, a rule placed the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, which allowed the FCC to prevent prioritization or blocking of Internet traffic by internet service providers.

In 2017, net neutrality’s abolition required a rule that placed the Internet under Title I, which defined the Internet as an information service, allowing ISPs to block or prioritize Internet traffic.

This means that in order to restore NN, the FCC would have to make changes to place the Internet under Title II  again, this process would take some time, since there are a series of regulatory steps along the way which we will number:

  1. The FCC would have to write and publish this rule.
  2. The rule would need a comment timelapse and a series of hearings.
  3. The FCC must vote in favor of issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), take all the necessary steps, and issue the rule.
  4. Companies affected by this decision can (and probably will) challenge this new rule in court, which will postpone the rule until the challenge goes to court.
  5. After this process is done, if no more challenges are presented, the rule will pass, restoring net neutrality.

However, it isn’t as simple as that, since an administration change could return the Internet back to Title I, just as it happened under Paji’s term. The only way to prevent this constant rule changing is for the congress itself to define the status of the Internet through legislation, but since both houses and the White House are controlled by the democratic party, it is possible in theory.

There is one last rock for the net neutrality supporters, and this is that the current legislative state of affairs may change in less than two years, this means that both the house and a third part of the senate will stand a new election. If either the house, the senate or both change hands, it will make change harder, and thus, less likely.

Hopefully, when the inevitable debate and news on net neutrality come back to the main headlines and pages of the Internet, you’ll be more informed about it thanks to this post. Not only regarding what it is but mainly about how feasible it is for it to come back.

What do you think about the current standing of net neutrality? And what about the constant rule changing? Let us know in the comments.

Interesting Related Article: “India blocks Facebook’s Free Basics internet service, votes in favour of net neutrality