Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a rollback of the Obama Administration’s 2015 net neutrality rules on November 21, which generally prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing, slowing or blocking online content. The new rules, expected to be approved by the Republican-controlled Commission on December 14, would require ISPs to be transparent about those practices. According to the proposal, the federal government would “stop micromanaging the Internet” and enforcement against unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices would shift to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “without burdensome regulations.” Supporters argue that the proposal will create certainty in the market and encourage broadband investment.
The rental apartment industry and its residents depend on the Internet for community amenities, marketing, leasing, revenue management, and more. NMHC/NAA continue to closely monitor and analyze the issue for potential implications for multifamily.
Opponents of the latest proposal, including content providers like Amazon, Netflix and Google, consumer groups and congressional Democrats, say that ISPs will advantage their own content and smaller companies will be unable to compete for the “fast lane.” Those companies that can afford to pay could pass along those costs to consumers. Following the FCC’s adoption of the 2015 regulations, several industry groups representing telecom carriers, cable and wireless providers filed legal challenges soon after the regulations were published.
The most controversial component was the reclassification of broadband as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act, although the FCC held back a number of Title II provisions to prevent utility-like oversight and incentivize broadband growth. Supporters argued in favor of the FCC’s reclassification to comply with court decisions on previous rules.
Congressional Republicans have promoted various legislative efforts to block or limit the 2015 regulations since they were adopted, but Democratic opposition and differences between Republicans in the House and Senate stalled their efforts.