FCC Net Neutrality Rules Take Effect

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
June 15, 2015

The FCC’s Open Internet Order became effective on June 12. The Order imposes new bright-line net neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from blocking, throttling, and prioritizing paid “fast lanes.” The rules apply to both fixed and mobile broadband Internet service. The Order also reclassifies broadband Internet access service as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act.

The day before the controversial rules went into effect, a federal court denied a request by some broadband providers to stay the reclassification of broadband service as a telecommunications service under Title II pending the court’s review. The stay would not have altered or delayed the net neutrality rules prohibiting blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

To assist consumers, businesses, and organizations with questions and complaints related to the new rules, the FCC today named Parul Desai as the ombudsperson for net neutrality issues. She is the Assistant Bureau Chief and Director for Consumer Engagement within the FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. In addition to fielding questions and complaints, as the ombudsperson, she is empowered to conduct trend analysis of complaints, analyze market conditions, investigate net neutrality concerns, and refer matters to the Enforcement Bureau for potential further investigation.

The FCC Consumer Advisory Committee also will be assisting consumers so that their specific issues of concern are communicated. Further, the Order calls for the Committee to develop a proposed format for net neutrality disclosures to consumers. The disclosures are intended to help consumers know the price and performance of their Internet connections and to easily compare services across broadband providers. The Committee might consider different disclosure formats for fixed and mobile broadband service providers. The digital format must be accessible to persons with disabilities. The Committee will be taking input from a broad range of stakeholders and is required to deliver the proposed format for disclosures by October 31.

The FCC could still face some challenges in implementing the new rules. Last week in Congress, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved a bill that would prohibit the FCC from implementing its net neutrality order until all current court cases challenging the Order are resolved.