What is Net Neutrality? 

Net Neutrality policies are a national standard by which we ensure that broadband internet service is treated as an essential service. It prohibits internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content. By classifying broadband service as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the law, the FCC restores its oversight of internet service outages, national security threats in broadband networks, and consumer protection and regains key tools to promote broadband deployment. 

The Way Forward 

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is working to restore Net Neutrality as the national standard for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection. The Chairwoman’s proposal would ensure that broadband services are treated as an essential resource deserving of FCC oversight under Title II authority.



Why Does It Matter?


While internet access has long been important to daily life, the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid shift of work, education, and health care online demonstrated how essential broadband internet connections are for consumers’ participation in our society and economy. But even as our society has reconfigured itself to do so much online, our institutions have fallen behind. When Net Neutrality protections are not in place, there is no expert agency ensuring that the internet is fast, open, and fair. Since the birth of the modern internet in the 1990s, the Commission had played that role.


When households and businesses lose internet service, they logically expect that the FCC might be able to help the restoration or at least have information about the outage. By restoring the FCC’s Title II authority over internet service providers, the FCC bolsters its authority to require these companies to address internet outages. Without such authority, the FCC cannot require companies to even report broadband outages, cannot collect outage data, and lacks the authority to consider ways that it can help protect against and recover from internet service outages.


The FCC would once again prevent broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or creating pay-to-play internet fast lanes.


In this digital age, there are digital threats. Without broadband oversight, the FCC is unable to monitor and respond to such national security issues. For example, without reclassification, the FCC is limited in its authority to direct foreign-owned companies deemed to be national security threats to discontinue any domestic or international broadband services under Sec. 214 – as they have done with telephone services. In addition, without reclassification, the FCC has limited authority to incorporate updated cybersecurity standards into network policies. 


Net Neutrality protections would increase the tools the FCC has available to protect consumer data and respond to evolving consumer threats. Broadband providers could not sell your location data, among other sensitive information. And the FCC will be empowered to protect consumers from other harmful practices.

“In the wake of the pandemic and the generational investment in internet access, we have a window to update our policies to make sure that the internet is not only open, but fast and fair, safe and secure.  I am committed to seizing this opportunity.  Now is the time for our rules of the road for internet service providers to reflect the reality that internet access is a necessity for daily life. Let’s get to it.”

– FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

What Is ‘Title II’ Authority

Title II is the part of the Communications Act that gives the FCC clear authority to serve as a watchdog over the communications marketplace and look out for the public interest. Title II took on special importance in the Net Neutrality debate because the courts have ruled that the FCC has clear authority to enforce open internet policies if broadband internet is classified as a Title II “telecommunications” service. 

What Is the Background of Net Neutrality as an FCC Policy? 

  • 2004: President Bush’s first FCC Chair challenged the broadband network industry to preserve “Internet Freedoms.”
  • 2005: FCC issues Policy Statement affirming open internet principles.
  • 2008: President Bush’s second FCC Chair tried to enforce these principles when Comcast “unduly squelche(d) the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet.”
  • 2010: The D.C. Circuit vacated the Comcast enforcement action, saying the FCC lacked legal jurisdiction.
  • 2010: FCC adopts compromise net neutrality rules “rooted in ideas first articulated” by the prior Chairs.
  • 2014: D.C. Circuit overturns the 2010 rules in Verizon v. FCC on grounds that the rules were only grounded in authority granted by Section 706 of the Act and not also Title II.
  • 2015: FCC adopts rules enshrining the open internet principles under Title II.
  • 2016: D.C. Circuit affirms the 2015 rules in their entirety.
  • 2018: After a change in administration, FCC abdicates open internet rules and authority over the internet entirely.
  • 2019: D.C. Circuit allows abdication to move forward but overturns the FCC’s attempted preemption of state open internet rules, and criticizes its treatment of issues including public safety.
  • 2020: California’s net neutrality law goes into effect, and along with other state laws and orders, broadband providers must comply with a patchwork of state regulations.
  • 2023: Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposes to reclassify broadband under Title II and reintroduce uniform, nationwide open internet rules.