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FCC Shifts Strategy on Net Neutrality 

One battle is over, but the net neutrality war continues. After losing a court case against Comcast, which stripped the FCC of much of its power to regulate broadband networks under its current classification as "information services," the FCC is proposing changing the classification of the internet so it falls under the umbrella of "telecommunication services." Currently only telephone services fall under that classification, and if the FCC were to succeed, it would give them broad-ranging power to, among other things, regulate pricing and place strict requirements for service unbundling.

The FCC believes such regulation is necessary to protect consumers. Without such regulation, many argue, internet service providers would be able to regulate the speed of transfer of packets of information in such a way that it would create a tiered internet-- how much you pay determines how fast your 'net is, and if a company doesn't pay the right ISP, their website might be slightly... sluggish.

Not everyone agrees. Comcast is worried that the proposal, which will likely take a better part of a year to lead to any new regulatory policy, will "ultimately `open` the door to the entire heavy burden of regulation," so says Joseph Waz, Comcast's senior VP for external affairs. Many other broadband providers, including AT&T, concur.

Google, while not an ISP itself, is influential in their support of net neutrality and is the founder of the Open Internet Coalition, a lobbying group founded to promote open access. They're playing this controversy a bit mercenary. While not coming out in open support of the move to reclassify broadband networks, Rick Whitt, on Google's public policy blog, said that "we support whatever jurisidictional fix is most sustainable legally" to keep the internet neutral.

The FCC v. Comcast decision has likely opened up the door for future litigation to protect the internet from federal regulation, and this move to reclassify the internet will be met with strong opposition. The next few months will provide time for the government to decide exactly what powers, if any, the FCC has to regulate internet service.

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October 21, 2020

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