Once More Into the Fray on Net Neutrality

In the spring of 2017, new leadership at the FCC suggested reversing pole that promoted net neutrality.  In response to questions from OLA member, the OLA Library Development and Legislative Committee developed the following information.  Thanks to Rachel Bridgewater, Committee member, for taking the lead on this.


The FCC is again taking public comment regarding proposed changes to the policies that ensure network neutrality by allowing the FCC to regulate internet service providers (ISPs)

Network neutrality is the principle that ISPs must treat all traffic on their networks the same, without giving preferential treatment to nor slowing down or blocking any content or websites.  While this principle has faced many threats and challenges over the years, it is how the internet has always worked.

This principle, which is at the heart of an internet, is currently under serious threat yet again.  The FCC’s authority to regulate the broadband providers under the law depends on whether these services are seen as “telecommunications services” (like telephone service) or “information services” (like cable television).  These two labels, set out in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, differ, crucially, in that “telecommunications services” are governed by the nondiscrimination requirements from “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934.  In 2015, the FCC officially reclassified broadband internet services as a Title II telecommunications service.  In 2016, this decision was affirmed by the DC Circuit Court.  The proposal put forward by current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai would essentially eliminate network neutrality for broadband subscribers by reclassifying the broadband internet as an “information service”, stripping it of the protections offered by Title II.  

Without network neutrality, the internet as we know it simply does not exist.  The neutrality of service providers toward the content and services is at the heart of the open internet.  Without the regulatory power granted by Title II, the FCC would not be able to stop broadband providers from engaging in a wide range of discriminatory practices including charging content providers more to deliver their content at higher speeds, blocking content they don’t like or approve of or that competes with their own offerings.  Innovation, small business, and free speech are all at stake.

Moreover, the rights of consumers to access online content are at stake.  Elimination of network neutrality will leave consumers at the mercy of their broadband provider’s discriminatory treatment of websites and content providers; this will be particularly problematic for those living in less populated areas who have few choices of ISP’s.

 On Thursday, May 18, 2017,  the FCC voted to move Pai’s proposal forward.  The FCC will take comments on the plan until August 16, 2017.   Please take a moment to submit a comment in favor of Title II regulation of broadband internet providers.