Regulatory and Legal Reform


Manufacturers Bracing for FCC Vote on Broadband Regulation Rule

The Federal Communications Commission is set for an April 25 vote to bring back “net neutrality,” aiming to reinstate a national regulatory framework for broadband internet services, Fox Business reports. The NAM is speaking out against it.

What is it: “The Biden administration’s rule would regulate broadband services as an essential resource under Title II of the Communications Act.’’

How did we get here: “In 2015, the FCC adopted the Obama administration’s [net] neutrality rules, known as the Open Internet Order. The rules survived a legal challenge with a favorable ruling by a federal appeals court in 2016.”

  • In 2017, the Trump administration rolled back broadband regulation with a regulation known as the Restoring Internet Freedom rule, citing it as an impediment to innovation and investment by internet service providers. This decision held up against a legal challenge.
  • By 2021, President Biden’s executive order suggested reviving Obama-era broadband rules. With Democrats leading the FCC by October 2023, a formal process began, setting the stage for a conclusive vote.

What would happen next: The NAM sent detailed feedback to the FCC last December, warning that reinstating broadband regulation “will lead to a slowdown in innovation and investment.”

  • The NAM’s feedback pointed to the negative impact of the Obama administration’s previous attempt to implement the policy: “In 2015, the last time the FCC sought to regulate broadband under Title II, annual industry capex fell by half a billion dollars.”
  • The FCC’s decision exceeds its authority and could also be subject to litigation: “Congress has not explicitly given the commission the authority to regulate broadband and reclassify it in this way; therefore, the FCC lacks authority to do so.”

Our take:  “As with the other elements of the regulatory onslaught out of Washington these past few years, this is yet another solution in search of a problem, because we already have an open and fair internet,” said NAM Senior Director of Technology Policy Franck Journoud. “As we’ve warned, this will regulate broadband as if it were the same as rotary telephone service, which would slow innovation. The commission really is doing nothing to answer the question of ‘why’ this policy should be brought back.”

  • The NAM has long opposed broadband regulation and went to court to support the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal the rule. As NAM Chief Legal Officer Linda Kelly said, “Internet-driven technology is at the heart of modern manufacturing, and the FCC’s decision to repeal the onerous 2015 net neutrality rule was a victory for the competitiveness of manufacturers in America.”

The NAM will closely follow the FCC’s latest vote on net neutrality and is prepared to oppose any decision to restore this outdated policy.

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