FCC Wins a Battle for Net Neutrality, But the War Isn’t Over Yet

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The FCC has been trying for years to put in place rules that would ensure net neutrality. After some setbacks in court, they changed tack last year, reclassifying broadband internet service as a public utility. This legally allowed them to implement the rules necessary for net neutrality.

Naturally, broadband suppliers like Verizon and AT&T cried foul. They’d prefer to be left alone to do whatever they want. Today, though, the FCC won:

High-speed internet service can be defined as a utility, a federal court has ruled, a decision clearing the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users….The court’s ruling was a slam-dunk for the F.C.C. The panel of three judges who heard the case late last year agreed that wireless broadband services were also common carrier utility services subject to anti-blocking and discrimination rules, a decision protested by wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Roughly speaking, there are three ways we could attack the problem of net neutrality. In order of preference, they are:

  1. Encourage more broadband competition.
  2. Pass legislation.
  3. Let the FCC do the job.

Option #1 is hard. Local cable companies are almost always monopolies, and there’s not much hope of seeing that change on a broad scale. Option #2 is very feasible, but Republicans simply have no desire to regulate the cable industry in any way. They talk about compromise a lot, but they never follow through and they probably never will. So that leaves Option #3. It’s the worst of the bunch, but it’s better than nothing. So three cheers for the DC Circuit Court. Now we just have to wait and see if the Supreme Court backs them up.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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