The White House released the competition executive order signed by the President Friday afternoon (July 9) and it does a lot of encouraging of the FCC, an independent agency, to take a number of regulatory actions including restoring net neutrality rules.
Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel was at the signing ceremony, but she will need a third Democratic commissioner if she plans to follow the President's lead. (President Biden cannot order any particular action by an independent agency, but he basically sent the signal he was looking for cooperation.)
The following are the relevant communications sector-related passages from the order, which also dealt with transportation, financial institutions, agriculture, medical devices and more.
"(l) To promote competition, lower prices, and a vibrant and innovative telecommunications ecosystem, the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission is encouraged to work with the rest of the Commission, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to consider:
"(i) adopting through appropriate rulemaking 'Net Neutrality' rules similar to those previously adopted under title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (Public Law 73-416, 48 Stat. 1064, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq.), as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, in "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet," 80 Fed. Reg. 19738 (Apr. 13, 2015);
"(ii) conducting future spectrum auctions under rules that are designed to help avoid excessive concentration of spectrum license holdings in the United States, so as to prevent spectrum stockpiling, warehousing of spectrum by licensees, or the creation of barriers to entry, and to improve the conditions of competition in industries that depend upon radio spectrum, including mobile communications and radio-based broadband services;
"(iii) providing support for the continued development and adoption of 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) protocols and software, continuing to attend meetings of voluntary and consensus-based standards development organizations, so as to promote or encourage a fair and representative standard-setting process, and undertaking any other measures that might promote increased openness, innovation, and competition in the markets for 5G equipment;
"(iv) prohibiting unjust or unreasonable early termination fees for end-user communications contracts, enabling consumers to more easily switch providers;
"(v) initiating a rulemaking that requires broadband service providers to display a broadband consumer label, such as that as described in the Public Notice of the Commission issued on April 4, 2016 (DA 16–357), so as to give consumers clear, concise, and accurate information regarding provider prices and fees, performance, and network practices;
"(vi) initiating a rulemaking to require broadband service providers to regularly report broadband price and subscription rates to the Federal Communications Commission for the purpose of disseminating that information to the public in a useful manner, to improve price transparency and market functioning; and
"(vii) initiating a rulemaking to prevent landlords and cable and Internet service providers from inhibiting tenants' choices among providers."
Citing all the Biden urging and encouraging of independent agencies like the FCC, conservative policy group, the American Action Forum, said that was only the most recent and most specific example of a President "seeking certain policy outcomes from independent agencies."
President Obama also drew criticism for his push for the FCC to adopt net neutrality rules.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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