As anticipated, the US Federal Communications Commission has voted three-to-two along party lines to restore what it says is the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.
Following detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders, the Commission reversed what it described as the FCC’s 2015 “heavy-handed” utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem.
In place of that framework, the FCC is returning to what it claims is the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015. The FCC also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct. The FCC’s action has restored the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anti-competitive, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices.
According to the FCC, the framework adopted will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules, suggesting that restoring a favourable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.