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Blog // Connect Ohio

Net Neutrality

By Lindsay Shanahan

From the Desk of the new Executive Director …

On February 26, 2015, in a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a set of strong network neutrality rules and regulatory framework that will govern the manner in which broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer service to consumers and businesses.  The FCC’s rules enforcing “net neutrality” will go into effect soon and have been subject to intense public attention over the last few months. No other broadband policy issue has received more attention – over 4 million comments were filed at the FCC, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has testified before Congress five times in the last two weeks on the FCC’s landmark decision. At Connect Ohio, we are studying the impact that the rules may have on broadband service in Ohio communities and areas in which state broadband policy might need to be adjusted or modified to account for the new federal rules.

Net Neutrality is the principle that individuals should have access to all data, content, and applications on the Internet equally. Even if not a previous follower of the FCC and its activities, many became familiar with Net Neutrality, also known as “Open Internet,” through John Oliver and other news coverage, including a group of protestors that blocked FCC Chairman Wheeler’s home in response.

On Wednesday, I spent the day with Tom Koutsky, Chief Policy Counsel for Connected Nation, Connect Ohio’s parent nonprofit, discussing with state stakeholders the impact that this Order could have on Ohio. Where the Ohio Revised Code incorporates FCC definitions, a change in federal definitions could matter – those statutes that incorporate federal regulations by reference could affect state laws.

However, the FCC action is not the final chapter in the Net Neutrality debate. Appeals have already been filed in the 5th Circuit, and Senators Thune and Nelson are trying to advance a bipartisan Net Neutrality bill. In short, this FCC decision, while important, is unlikely to be the end of the Net Neutrality debate or, more importantly, the debate regarding what legal framework should apply to the broadband industry as well as the content and edge providers that rely on broadband networks to reach their customers.

Connect Ohio and Connected Nation will continue to monitor the Net Neutrality debate and other federal policy developments. To ensure you receive all future Connected Nation’s Policy Briefs, subscribe via RSS!

Update: On Wednesday, April 1st, the FCC forwarded its net neutrality order to the Federal Register, the official journal of the federal government, and no, it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke. The order will need to complete an internal process before officially being published, but once this occurs, those seeking to oppose it will be able to initiate litigation proceedings.



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