On September 28, 2023, the FCC released a public draft of its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on proposed rules for safeguarding and securing the open Internet, which is planned for vote at the FCC’s open meeting on October 19, 2023. The proposed draft would reestablish the Commission’s authority over broadband Internet access service (BIAS) by classifying it as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. There is currently no expert agency ensuring that the Internet is fast, open, and fair.
The draft NPRM proposes that the FCC take the first procedural steps toward reaffirming rules that would treat broadband internet service as an essential service for American life. As work, healthcare, education, commerce, and so much more have moved online, no American household or business should need to function without reliable internet service. This was especially true during the pandemic. Such rules would affirm—under Title II of the Communications Act—that broadband service is on par with water, power, and phone service; that is: essential. More facts are listed in the fact sheet linked below.
Regarding accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the draft seeks comment on how the proposed reclassification of BIAS would affect:
- The availability and performance of IP-based telecommunications relay services (TRS);
- The FCC’s authority to ensure that individuals with disabilities can communicate using IP-based services such as video communications and electronic messaging services, IP equipment, and mobile browsers;
- The requirement that Internet service providers (ISPs) comply with certain sections of the Communications Act (Sections 225, 255, and 251(a)(2)), and associated FCC rules, which advance access for persons with disabilities, and the Commission’s proposal to forbear from (that is, refrain from) applying TRS Fund contribution requirements;
- Past analyses and conclusions that the Communications Act, as amended by the 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act (CVAA), provides the FCC with authority to ensure that consumers with disabilities can access broadband networks regardless of whether BIAS is classified as telecommunications service or information service.
- Emergency communications and public safety of persons with disabilities by preventing the degradation of latency-sensitive and data-intensive applications;
- IP-based home health monitoring systems and other connected systems for individuals with disabilities;
- The implementation and enforcement of other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, designed to protect individuals with disabilities.
The draft NPRM also asks about the accessibility of ISPs’ website disclosures. Are more requirements needed to ensure accessibility? Should ISPs be encouraged to use the Web Accessibility Initiative guidance?
The comment and reply comment dates are proposed to be December 14, 2023 and January 17, 2024. More information about the filing procedures will be sent out through an AccessInfo after the draft is considered at the October open meeting.
Link to the draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
Link to Fact Sheet:
For more information about this proceeding, please contact OpenInternet2023@fcc.gov. Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).