Restoring non-discrimination to the 21st century’s most important network | Part 4 of Build Back Better with Biden FCC

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The ongoing challenge of regulatory oversight in an era of rapid technological change is to maintain the flexibility to deal with unanticipated developments. What is essential for the future of meaningful net neutrality, therefore, is the agility to adjust to new technology and new marketplace behaviors. It was for this reason that the 2015 Open Internet Rule decision included a “General Conduct Rule” that empowered the agency to determine whether the action of an ISP was “just and reasonable.” The inquiry into self-preferencing started by the Obama Federal Communications Commission, for instance, was based on whether the practice violated the General Conduct Rule. The companies hated the General Conduct Rule because it gave the FCC continuing oversight of their internet activities.

No doubt, when the Biden FCC revisits the net neutrality question, the ISPs and their allies will again fight what they will describe as the “regulatory uncertainty” of the General Conduct Rule. If they succeed in defining net neutrality as only blocking and throttling, the ISPs will have created a digital Maginot Line. Like the Maginot Line that proved of no value at the outset of World War II, a fixed set of rules would be easy for a nimble network to get around. To encase the FCC’s open internet activities in the concrete of rigid rules would be as foolish as to entrust the defense of France to concrete fortifications at a time of the rapid blitzkrieg.

The public interest that is inherent in open and non-discriminatory networks has been well established for over half a millennium. The Trump FCC walked away from that responsibility; now it falls to the Biden FCC to stand up for consumers and a competitive and innovative internet.

Restoring non-discrimination to the 21st century’s most important network