Net neutrality’s long journey toward (and then away from, then toward again, then away from, and now toward again) federal protections against broadband intervention may be entering its final chapter, either dead forever or enshrined in law — depending, Like a lot of people, it’s about the November election results.

If Biden wins re-election, the rules currently in place by the FCC will likely be solidified into law. If Trump wins, net neutrality will disappear for one of several reasons.

Let’s first address the best-case scenario for long-term desired protection.

As you may recall, net neutrality is a principle, enforced by a set of rules, that companies that operate and provide Internet services must have traffic on their systems free from any preferred deals, prioritization, restrictions, or blocking. (Somehow this largely technical distinction has been shoehorned into a partisan dispute.)

The FCC has said it intends to re-establish net neutrality on similar terms as it did in 2015, but updated it to avoid falling into the legal trap that ensnared it in 2017 and was ultimately revoked. The agency has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking stating that it will put it up for a vote later this month.

Given the agency’s current makeup, passage of the bill is a foregone conclusion. Once this happens, it takes a while for it to take effect. When it happens and the sky doesn’t fall, there will likely be legislative efforts to codify some aspects of the rule into law, perhaps by amending the Communications Act that gives the FCC its power. This might actually be possible if combined with Section 230 reform or several other political initiatives at play.

This will happen sometime in 2025 when Biden is re-elected and Democrats take control of Congress.

But this is a fragile future. A second Trump term as president, whatever its odds and whatever one thinks of his other policies, would be fatal to net neutrality efforts.

The first and simplest reason is the same one that caused net neutrality to be curtailed shortly after his first term: The new administration would appoint a new FCC chairman and once again adopt the agency’s standard 3:2 partisan split Divisive, undoing the rules decided by the previous government. It was one of the priorities announced by former Chairman Ajit Pai after Trump took office in 2017. 2025 will be no exception.

Companies that oppose regulations like the FCC’s net neutrality plan often call for federal legislation on the topic. This is a delaying tactic because they know that expert agencies move quickly and are difficult to influence, while Congress moves slowly and relatively softly. So there will be widespread calls for a law after the FCC repeals net neutrality in 2025, and with Trump vetoing it, the chances of that happening are next to zero. Since laws are harder to undo than independent agency rules, ruling it out (or delaying it indefinitely amid the melee of a second Trump presidency) means net neutrality cannot be made permanent.

The third threat to net neutrality comes from the Supreme Court, which has been fulfilling quite a few conservative wishes of late. One dream of this political ideology ostensibly devoted to small government is to minimize or eliminate independent agencies such as the EPA, SEC, Department of Education, and, of course, the FCC.

A case filed in court, often called ruthless The lawsuit comes after the plaintiffs aimed to overturn one of the most important doctrines in recent history, a precedent named for Chevron that essentially empowers an independent agency to use its expertise to interpret ambiguous laws. For example, if a law states that drinking water must not be contaminated but does not define contamination, then the EPA or FDA will do so.depends on how ruthless If decided, it could radically weaken the powers of these agencies and throw the entire U.S. federal regulatory landscape into chaos.

If that happens, though, and net neutrality rules become meaningless because the FCC is inoperable, that will be the least of our worries. We will see pan-industry free-for-alls the likes of which we have not seen in a century. Forget broadband restrictions—you’ll read about environmental and labor disasters of more immediate importance.

Of course, there is a future for Biden to be re-elected and ruthless Let’s plunge into the dark ages. However, I suspect that the Biden administration will be more determined to oppose agency cuts, at least in order to preserve executive power, a decision that would severely limit executive power.

It may seem odd to worry about the fate of net neutrality when there is so much at stake in this election, but since its re-establishment is bound to cause some cheers, this optimism is only tempered with a grain of serious caution. reasonable.

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