Advocacy Group Pushing Candidates to Back Net Neutrality

Commentary & Community

Advocacy Group Pushing Candidates to Back Net Neutrality

A coalition of liberal advocacy groups is pushing for Democratic presidential nominees to pledge a restoration of net neutrality regulations. This group is seeking to make technology policy a key pillar of the 2020 presidential race.

 

The effort is aimed at having presidential candidates sign a pledge that they will re-impose network neutrality rules that were put in place during the Obama Administration but repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. The pledge also commits candidates to refuse political donations from telecom companies or executives.

 

In December 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality regulations. The regulations in question date to 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate Internet service providers more stringently. In essence, the agency at that time classified the services they provide as a public utility, largely forcing providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network.

 

This rule change did not remove federal oversight from the Internet. In fact, the rule mandates transparency for network management practices. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates Internet service providers. But it did lessen the ability of the government to set rules proactively that constrain Internet service providers.

 

The imposition of net neutrality rules was an issue that many liberal and progressive groups long been advocating prior to 2015. They said that telecom companies had too much power to determine what consumers saw. They argued that federal regulations were necessary to protect consumers that could be victimized by telecom companies denying them access to certain websites. Opponents of net neutrality say that they will stifle innovation, preventing the internet from evolving and changing to meet consumer need. They say that companies should be able to price internet access in different ways to provide a higher level of service.

 

The FCC is an independent agency not directly under control of the president. To change FCC policy, the president can appoint new members to the commission with views more in line with the president’s opinion on technology policy.

 

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