The Federal Communications Commission has voted to restore net neutrality in the United States. It has reclassified broadband internet as a Title II telecommunications service, meaning that it is treated as an essential service, enabling the Commission to regulate it more effectively. The long-standing debate over network neutrality is unlikely to end there.

The decision restores the authority of the Commission to provide effective oversight over internet service providers, reasserting its jurisdiction and re-establishing what it calls a national open internet standard.

Internet service providers will again be prohibited from blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content.

The Commission will also be able to revoke the authorisations of foreign-owned entities to operate broadband networks in the United States if they pose a threat to national security. It has previously used this to stop four Chinese state-owned carriers providing voice services in the United States.

The debate over net neutrality in the United States goes back over twenty years. In 2004 the chair of the FCC first challenged the broadband network industry to preserve internet freedoms. The telecommunications industry successfully challenged the jurisdiction of the FCC on the matter in the courts.

In 2015, under the Obama administration, the FCC adopted rules enshrining open internet principles under Title II. This was effectively overturned under the administration of President Trump. The state of California introduced its own net neutrality law in 2020. Then in 2023, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed to reclassify broadband under Title II and reintroduce uniform, nationwide open internet rules.

In a 3-to-2 vote along party lines, the Commission has restored the rules that effectively class the internet as a regulated utility.

It seems unlikely to end there, with the prospect of further challenge in the courts and the possibility of another change of government administration.