Last month, President Obama urged the FCC to “reclassify consumer broadband services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act – while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.” Theoretically, under “Title II” regulation, the FCC would be able to regulate broadband services as a utility (e.g., telephone service) but could decide not to apply certain provisions to broadband services, including rate regulations, that might impede market competition. The FCC announced that it would delay its vote on net neutrality rules until early 2015.
Tech giants such as Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm submitted an open letter discouraging the FCC from classifying broadband services under Title II, claiming that the regulations would strangle investment and innovation in broadband technology.
The FCC’s decision comes at a critical time, after a federal district court effectively struck down the FCC’s prior attempt to regulate internet access (FCC Open Internet Order 2010) earlier this year. Additionally, although the U.S. still fares well in the World Wide Web Foundation’s recent annual “Web Index” report, the report identifies certain facets of the broadband service industry that may pose threats to equal access and neutral content, such as widening economic inequality (exacerbated by cable/telephone company monopolies), price discrimination, and surveillance.
For additional background on this topic, visit my colleague’s June 2014 post on net neutrality.