Net neutrality is back: U.S. promises fast, safe and reliable internet for all

by Emma Bowman at

Consumers can look forward to faster, safer and more reliable internet connections under the promises of newly reinstated government regulations.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to reclassify broadband as a public utility, such as water and electricity — to regulate access to the internet. The move to expand government oversight of internet service providers comes after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the magnitude of the digital divide, forcing consumers to rely on high-speed internet for school and work, as well as social and health support.

Because the government deems internet access an essential service, the FCC is promising oversight as if broadband were a public utility. In doing so, the government aims to make providers more accountable for outages, require more robust network security, protect fast speeds, and require greater protections for consumer data.

The decision effectively restores so-called net neutrality rules that were first introduced during the Obama administration in 2015 and repealed two years later under President Trump.

The rules are sure to invite legal challenges from the telecoms industry — not for the first time. And a future administration could always undo the rules.