Efforts underway to restore 2015 open internet rules

The Federal Communications Commission published in the Feb. 22 edition of the Federal Register the final text of their decision to repeal net neutrality, opening the door to challenges by Congress and in the courts. Under the announcement, FCC would rescind rules that had been enacted under the 2015 Open Internet Order on April 23.

School technology leaders and other education stakeholders are concerned about potential, unexpected consequences of overturning the 2015 rules — which prohibited Internet Service Providers from blocking, throttling, and prioritizing paid content.

The policy change could impact schools in a variety of ways. For instance, local education agencies could be saddled with higher transport costs levied on digital content providers, tiered pricing, and “fast lanes” that benefit incumbent providers, according to Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking.

“First, broadband companies may begin charging content providers new fees to deliver digital learning content — and those costs may be passed on to schools,” Krueger said.

“Second, new entrants into the education technology market may be blocked or have their services slowed by broadband providers that want to feature their own services or applications, or the services of other companies willing to pay for preferential treatment. Third, districts that lack market power — especially rural and low-income communities served by a single broadband provider — may be exposed to higher costs or face degraded service.”

‘Without guardrails’

Meanwhile, the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, published in a Feb. 22 Federal Register notice, requires internet service providers to disclose information about their network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of service.

These new rules also reinstate the information service classification of broadband internet access service and return jurisdiction to regulate broadband privacy and data security practices of ISPs and other online providers to the Federal Trade Commission, a task that FCC commissioners felt its agency was unfit to do, according to the notice.

Republican FCC commissioners that voted to eliminate the open internet regulations believe the new rules will prevent any foreseeable issues and unfair practices, but that is “a significant reach,” Krueger said. Annulling the open internet rules, said Krueger, “created a system without guardrails or a process if there are problems.”

Since the FCC voted 3-2 on Dec. 14 to rescind the Obama-era net neutrality rules, legislation that would enforce net neutrality has surfaced across the nation, and at least 22 state attorneys general are suing the FCC.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and a number of other senators also introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. CRA resolutions allow Congress to overturn regulatory actions at federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.

Markey is still seeking allies and said he needs at least one more Republican senator to support the CRA. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., is introducing a CRA resolution in the House.

Emily Ann Brown covers education technology and STEM education issues for LRP Publications.

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