Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured) announced the agency would conduct a final vote on whether to restore controversial net neutrality rules removed in 2017 during the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Rosenworcel outlined the elements of net neutrality in a proposal which includes classifying fixed and mobile broadband internet as essential telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act.  

If the proposal is passed during a vote on 25 April, it would “ensure that broadband services are treated as an essential resource deserving of FCC oversight under Title II authority”, she stated.

Rosenworcel’s plan includes a provision to prevent service providers from blocking or throttling broadband traffic, or creating pay-to-play fast lanes.

During a media briefing, a senior FCC official stated the proposal would not allow the agency to regulate rates or police online speech.

They added the FCC currently has limited authority to incorporate new cybersecurity standards into upcoming network policies without Title II authority over broadband.

The agency noted the updated rules would prevent broadband providers selling consumers’ location data and other sensitive information. “This would empower the agency to protect consumers from other harmful practices,” it stated.

Rosenworcel stated today (3 April) the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate net neutrality prevented the FCC from acting “to fully secure broadband networks, protect consumer data and ensure the internet remains fast, open and fair”.

“A return to the FCC’s overwhelmingly popular and court-approved standard of net neutrality will allow the agency to serve once again as a strong consumer advocate of an open internet,” she explained.

Operators and industry associations have vehemently opposed the reinstatement of net neutrality.

Evan Swarztrauber, senior fellow at Foundation for American Innovation, and a former policy adviser to FCC chair Ajit Pai and Commissioner Brendan Carr, stated the “agency looks poised to saddle broadband providers with Title II rules that will increase compliance costs for ISPs and drive up the price of deploying networks”.

“The FCC is now rebranding net neutrality as key to national security, a cynical attempt to justify what cannot be justified based on the facts,” he stated.

Net neutrality rules were implemented in 2015 during former President Barack Obama’s tenure and current President Joe Biden has long expressed a desire to restore them, but was hamstrung by a political deadlock among FCC Commissioners.

The appointment of former National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) executive Anna Gomez as the fifth commissioner in 2023 broke the deadlock, giving Democrats a majority they now hope to use to restore the net neutrality rules.