net neutrality

Net neutrality may have been a winner in last week’s elections.

A Democratic House of Representatives and a recent Supreme Court decision may be good news for net neutrality.

According to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Supreme Court decision not to review a lower court ruling affirming the net neutrality rule put in place by the Obama-era FCC was a blow in favor of rescuing an open internet. Wheeler writes:

The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet decision declared broadband providers to be Telecommunications Services subject to the common carrier requirements of Title II of the Communications Act. Just like the telegraph and telephone companies that preceded them, internet service providers could not discriminate among those using the network. They could not, for instance, break the internet into fast lanes and slow lanes depending on how much a content provider such as Netflix paid them.

In 2017, the Trump FCC repealed the Open Internet Rule at the request of the network companies. In the process, the FCC also ruled that the agency had only minimal authority over internet networks. Except for toothless transparency requirements, the Commission would exercise no oversight over broadband internet access services. Not only did the agency created by Congress to oversee the nation’s networks walk away from that responsibility, but it also joined with the plaintiffs in asking the Supreme Court to overrule the D.C. Circuit’s 2015 decision. When the High Court denied that request, it breathed new life into the 2015 Open Internet Rule.

The Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives is also a potential plus for net neutrality. Democrats have generally come down more on the side of net neutrality. But the rules weren’t much of an issue in the November election.

According to Wired:

Democrats, who generally favor rules barring internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or otherwise discriminating against content, took control of the House. And even after losing ground in the Senate, the party is tantalizingly close to having enough support from Senate Republicans to pass new net neutrality protections.

Net neutrality supporters had hoped the issue could be a major factor in the midterms. But it didn’t work out that way, despite multiple polls finding that the issue enjoys broad support from both Democratic and Republican voters.