The Federal Communications Commission has released a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) with the goal of bringing back its 2015 net neutrality rules that classified broadband internet as a common carrier and prohibited the blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of content. The 2015 rules, promulgated under the Obama administration, were repealed in 2017 by former Commissioner Ajit Pai.
Though many expected President Biden’s 2020 victory to result in re-adoption of the 2015 rules, President Biden did not appoint a fifth Commissioner to the FCC until recently, leaving the agency at a 2-2 standstill down party lines for the past two years. With the appointment of Commissioner Anna Gomez, Biden’s FCC is now at full operating capacity to move forward on major actions and reestablish the net neutrality rules. And with the NPRM, the Commission has demonstrated that there are a multitude of changed conditions that necessitate re-adopting the 2015 rules: the NPRM establishes “the increased importance of [broadband internet access service] to consumers since the onset of the pandemic,” that consumers’ perception of broadband internet access service as a standalone telecommunications service is “more pronounced now than it was in 2015,” and that “developments in recent years have highlighted national security and public safety concerns arising in connection with the U.S. communications sector[.]”