Jessica Rosenworcel: FCC Has Authority to Adopt Net Neutrality Rules

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel at NAB Show in 2022
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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says she is all for the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act, which would reclassify internet access as a Title II telecommunications service and return the FCC's authority to impose net neutrality rules.

That authority went away in 2017 when the FCC under then Republican Chairman Ajit Pai reclassified ISPs as Title I information services not subject to mandatory access or potentially rate regulation rules.

"The pandemic made clear internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity—and that consumers don’t just need broadband, they need to be able to hold their providers to account," said Rosenworcel, who opposed the Pai reclassification when she was a commissioner in the minority.

"After all, everyone should be able to go where they want and do what they want online without their broadband provider making choices for them. I support Net Neutrality because it fosters this openness and accountability. While I trust the FCC has the authority it needs to adopt Net Neutrality rules, legislation that helps ensure it is the law of the land is welcome."

The other Democratic commissioner, Geoffrey Starks, also weighed in with his support of the bill, essentially echoing Rosenworcel.

"I have previously stated that the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules were the right approach. That approach is undergirded by a voluminous record and overwhelming public support, and it has been tested in court," said Starks. "The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would codify just that. COVID and the last few years have proven that broadband is essential for the 21st century. This legislation is an important step that will provide certainty to consumers and broadband providers, and allow everyone to move forward. It has my strong support."

Congressional Democrats are trying to step in given that whether or not the FCC could reinstate the Title II-based rules, that is not happening with the current 2-2 politically tied FCC and no near-term prospects for a third (majority) Democratic commissioner given the stalled nomination of Gigi Sohn. ■

John Eggerton

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.