Reddit, Mozilla Ask FCC for Net Neutrality Reg Return

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A handful of prominent edge players including Mozilla and Reddit have asked the FCC to reinstate the net neutrality rules, but that is almost certainly not going to happen until there is a Democratic majority on the commission.

In a letter dated March 19, the above two joined by ADT, Dropbox, Eventbrite, Vimeo and Wikimedia, wrote acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel saying those fundamental safeguards--rules preventing blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, are critical to preserving a free and open internet.

Their support is no surprise since they backed the rules ultimately eliminated by the Republican FCC under chairman Ajit Pai. Mozilla, for example, was the lead challenger to Pai's Restoring Internet Freedom order deregulating internet access.

But what would be a surprise is if Rosenworcel tried to restore the rules while there is still a 2-2 political tie on the commission. Both Republicans are on the record as having issues with net neutrality rules.

It is unclear when the FCC will get a third Democrat, either a new chair if President Joe Biden does not decide to make Rosenworcel his choice for chair, or a third Democratic commissioner if he does.

Either way, the nomination has to be made, then the Senate has to vet and vote the nominee.

The longer Rosenworcel is in the chair, the more likely she will get to remove the "acting" from her title, said one veteran FCC transition watcher.

One possibility for the holdup could if the Congressional Black Caucus is still lobbying for current Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to be named chair. It would unusual for Starks to leap-frog Rosenworcel, who is the senior Democrat had has strong Hill backing as well, but the caucus came out in support of his chairmanship.

If Rosenworcel does get the chair, top candidates for the third Democratic seat include Edward “Smitty” Smith, a partner at law firm DLA Piper who has experience with overseeing multibillion-dollar broadband subsidies at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and at the FCC, as an adviser to the Broadcast Incentive Auction Task Force, and Anna Gomez of D.C. powerhouse law firm Wiley (formerly Wiley Rein).

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.