Recrafting Open Internet Rules

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[Commentary] On April 11, the Benton Foundation responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for public comment on how to preserve an Open Internet in the wake of the ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which struck down some of the FCC’s Open Internet (or “network neutrality”) rules.

Benton strongly believes that Open Internet rules are necessary for the Internet to continue to be a boon to commerce and our democracy, and they remain an important policy goal of the FCC. It is particularly important to enact strong Open Internet rules because of the disproportionate impact of an ISP’s discriminatory behavior on vulnerable populations, such as people of color, low-income populations, seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities.

In the current proceeding, the FCC indicated its preference to enact Open Internet standards under Sec 706 authority and to enforce those standards on a case-by-case basis. In our comments, Benton encourages the FCC to take a close look at the issues surrounding use of Sec 706, and consider a pathway to achieve meaningful protections through reclassification of the provision of broadband as a telecommunications service. This may be a politically difficult choice, but it is an inevitable choice if the FCC is to ensure the continued value and viability of the Internet.

In addition, reclassifying broadband delivery services would further solidify the FCC’s authority to make necessary updates to vital universal service programs including E-Rate, Lifeline, and Link-up which ensure that telecommunications services are available and affordable throughout the country.

Recrafting Open Internet Rules