Politics Under Biden, Democrats are ready to revive net neutrality rules
Joe Biden's Options for Dealing with Donald Trump Are Worse than Watergate
When it comes to Donald Trump, the incoming president has a critical decision to make about the best way to move the country forward—and neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to be happy about his choice.The 78-year-old Democrat, more comfortable preaching the politics of unity and reconciliation than backing a fire-and-brimstone approach, has not publicly—or privately, advisers say—backed impeachment or pushed for conviction in the Senate, even as a groundswell for justice has emerged in the wake of the Capitol riot.
More than three years ago, Jessica Rosenworcel could only react in horror as her Republican counterparts on the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules.
“There is no shortage of people who believe Washington is not listening to their concerns, their fears and their desires,” Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the FCC, said. “Add this agency to the list.”
Now, Rosenworcel controls the very commission she once criticized for failing to heed the public’s outcry. And her stewardship — along with Democrats’ broader resurgence in Washington — has brought new, sky-high expectations that the party deliver on its past promises, restore open-Internet protections and resolve one of the most intractable policy battles in the digital age.
Power Up: Unity in Washington will be harder than Biden makes it sound
Republicans are already objecting to some of his first moves in office. © Jim Lo Scalzo/AP President Biden signs three documents including an inauguration declaration, cabinet nominations and sub-cabinet nominations in the President's Room at the US Capitol after the inauguration ceremony (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Photo via AP) Some Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even trashed Biden's speech itself, which was widely-lauded for its appeals for Americans to set aside their political differences and work together for a better country.
For more than two decades, Democrats and Republicans have warred over net neutrality, the idea that Internet providers should treat all Web traffic equally. At a time when the pandemic has forced Americans to learn and work online, Democrats see the Internet as anBiden’s policies on technology and stress that in some cases, it should be regulated like one. Republicans generally balk at that approach, siding with telecom giants including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that say they believe in the principles of Internet openness — but oppose stiff federal rules to enforce them.
The fight has outlasted Democratic and Republican presidents, spawned a seemingly never-ending series of court challenges and garnered the sort of national attention that might seem unlikely in a wonky policy war. Fearful about slow speeds and other online disruptions, millions of Americans directly pleaded with the FCC to preserve its rules before the agency under President Donald Trump.
Live updates: Biden to focus on racial equity; senators to be sworn in as jurors ahead of Trump trial
Biden plans to sign the latest batch of executive actions in the opening days of his presidency. His pick for secretary of state appears poised for confirmation by the Senate. Meanwhile, senators are set to be sworn in as jurors ahead of the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, which is scheduled to begin in earnest next month.
Reinstating those protections may prove difficult for Rosenworcel and her Democratic peers, at least at first. The FCC, with two Democrats and two Republicans, is politically deadlocked, lacking a fifth member, and Congress is otherwise distracted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The fiercest advocates for net neutrality, however, say they plan to press the issue — and pushto act as soon as they can.
The FCC declined to comment for this story.Appeals court ruling upholds FCC’s canceling of net neutrality rules
For Democrats, net neutrality has long been counted among their signature tech policy priorities. The party’s past presidential candidates, including Biden, have endorsed open-Internet rules, and Democrats’in 2020 once again included a commitment to penalize “broadband providers who violate net neutrality principles.”
Members of the 116th Congress rail against social-media companies but posted to Twitter and Facebook a record 2.2 million times
The Pew Research Center found lawmakers drew record-breaking followings on the platforms in 2019 and 2020 amid arguments over social-media moderation.The numbers for the 116th Congress eclipsed data collected during the previous two sessions. The research center began collecting data on members' social media usage during the 114th Congress, starting in 2015. The most recent Congress produced about 738,000 more posts on Twitter and Facebook than the 114th Congress, according to Pew.
The U.S. government imposed its toughest-ever open-Internet protections under President Barack Obama, aiming to ensure that Internet providers could not block or slow down their customers’ ability to access even the most data-intensive sites and services. But the rules proved short lived: Trump’s election in 2016 resulted in their repeal, as the FCC under GOP Chairman Ajit Pai argued that the regulations had.
Video: Constitutional Amendment To Change Way To Elect Statewide Judges Splits Some Republicans (CBS Pittsburgh)
Democrats soon embarked on a wave of largely ill-fated efforts to restore the digital safeguards. Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox Web browser, joined net neutrality advocates in filing a lawsuit to unwind the Republican FCC’s repeal — only to have a federal court rule largely in Pai’s favor. Democratic policymakers, meanwhile, set about trying to codify net neutrality protections into their states’ laws nationwide. But the Trump administration sought to block these local efforts, even filing a lawsuit to stop a potent net neutrality law from taking effect in California. Federal lawmakers in Congress took small steps toward undoing Pai’s work yetin crafting their own lasting solution to the fight.
Undoing Trump's policies and other things Biden did his first week as president
President Joe Biden has signed over 30 executive orders ranging from reversing Trump-era policy to adjusting the nation’s response to the pandemic.The orders ranged in topic from dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to beginning the process for what he hopes will be immigration reform. Many take direct aim at the decisions of former President Donald Trump.
Biden selects Slaughter as acting chair of Federal Trade Commission, Rosenworcel as acting chair of Federal Communications Commission
But the outcome of the 2020 election — sending Democrats to the White House and majorities in Congress — has injected new optimism into these long-stalled efforts. At the FCC, supporters say they have gained a powerful leader in Rosenworcel, whom. The president is expected to select her or another fervent net neutrality advocate to lead the agency on a permanent basis in the coming months.
The process of naming that fifth member of the FCC, either a new Democratic chair or commissioner, is likely to span months — preventing Rosenworcel from forging ahead as interim leader for the time being. Advocates said that in the meantime, they plan to dial up the pressure, aiming to ensure Biden makes a pick who supports their cause and Senate Democrats act quickly to return the commission to its full strength.
“It should be clear to Democrats they have absolutely no excuse to not put someone in who is a champion for Internet freedom and the public interest,” said Evan Greer, the deputy director of the liberal advocacy group. “We are expecting them to move on this as quickly as possible.”
Here are the moderate Democrats who will have outsized influence over Biden's agenda amid a slim majority in the Senate
Moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are poised to have overwhelming influence in the early part of the Biden era.Democrats have control of the Senate for the first time in six years. Georgia runoff winners Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, along with Alex Padilla, California's former secretary of state, were sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on January 20. The ceremony finally materialized the party's highly sought-after goal: control of the White House and Congress.
The Biden administration could open other legal avenues for net neutrality even in the absence of a Democratic majority at the FCC. The Justice Department, for example, is expected to either withdraw its lawsuit challenging California’s net neutrality protections or switch sides in the case, according to two people with knowledge of the agency’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations with Biden’s team. That could allow California to forge ahead once again on net neutrality — and perhaps inspire other states to do the same.
“California is not alone,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of, which promotes open-Internet policies. “If the Biden administration pulls out, that will send a clear signal to other states we’re good with this. You’re still going to have to fight against the cable companies, but I think it will breathe new life into other state efforts.”
A dozen House Democrats earlier this month asked the Department of Justice and Biden’s pick for attorney general,Millions of low-income Americans will receive Internet access rebates under new $7 billion broadband stimulus plan , to pull the lawsuit. The Justice Department declined to comment. A judge is set to hold a status conference on the case next month.
California’s telecom regulators separatelyearlier in January to throw out a critical portion of Pai’s net neutrality repeal. The short petition filed by the California Public Utilities Commission said that Pai had acted in an “arbitrary, capricious” manner in the way he scrapped open-Internet protections. The state agency declined to comment on the filing.
A chasm opens in COVID-19 relief talks. Can Biden and Republicans close the trillion-dollar gap?
President Joe Biden and group of Senate Republicans huddle at the White House in an effort to reach consensus on a COVID-19 relief plan.Senate Republicans, no longer in power but still a formidable force in a chamber split 50-50 between parties, have balked at the proposal's price tag. A group of 10 senators offered a competing proposal – with about two-thirds less funding than Biden called for.
In seeking to restore tough net neutrality rules, however, the Democratic Party’s leaders in Washington threaten to reopen a war with the telecom industry.
AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon each contend they do not block, throttle or otherwise interfere with Web traffic even in the absence of regulation. Net neutrality supporters feared a slow, patchy Web would emerge in the three years after Pai’s repeal — but the industry’s foremost advocates say the worst predictions never came true.
“What has the last year told us? The Internet is open, and our broadband networks are strong, resilient and up to the job of providing the streaming, Zooming, telehealth and increased connectivity needs brought about by the pandemic,” said Jonathan Spalter, president of the trade group USTelecom.
Spalter added in a statement that policymakers should focus instead on boosting Internet access even further — and not “restart this divisive, and frankly outdated, battle” over net neutrality.Your Internet is working. Thank these Cold War-era pioneers who designed it to handle almost anything
There still have been scattered incidents seen as net neutrality violations in recent years — Verizon, for instance, imposed wireless data restrictions on California firefighters battling an inferno in 2018,. Otherwise, open-Internet supporters argue that the digital-doomsday scenarios never arrived precisely because of their continued political pressure and sustained public advocacy on the telecom industry.
“They were on their best behavior because they knew any action to confirm the concerns would precipitate further action,” said Ashley Boyd, the vice president for advocacy and engagement at Mozilla. She said that open-Internet advocates served as their own “watchdog” at a time when the FCC had been absent.
“We need to focus on net neutrality,” she added about the fight to come, “and get it secured because of how fundamental it is.”
Biden not budging on $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief, presses Congress to act fast after lackluster jobs report .
President Joe Biden pushes for $1.9 trillion in COVID relief as lackluster jobs report shows U.S. economy continues to sputter amid global pandemic.In remarks from the White House, Biden said the economy is still in trouble, and he called on Congress to quickly to pass his proposal with or without GOP support.