Larry Downes: “Get Ready For Net Neutrality’s Ugly Return” (Forbes)

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Once more into the net neutrality breach, friends. In the waning days of the Obama administration, an increasingly activist Federal Communications Commission plunged head-first into regulatory waters that had long been the exclusive domain of non-governmental engineering groups. The FCC passed or considered rules prescribing specific network management, data collection and use, interconnection and intellectual property procedures, setting retail service rates, preempting state regulation of municipal networks, and even whether mobile providers could continue to offer free data services. But the most controversial intervention into the Internet’s engineering remains the notorious 2015 Open Internet order, which transformed consumer broadband service from a collection of private networks into a public utility, regulated by the FCC and state utility commissions. The agency claimed that utility “reclassification” was necessary to enact “prophylactic” net neutrality rules that would ensure network operators didn’t slow or speed up Internet traffic for anti-competitive reasons. It was a far cry from the days when a far-sighted majority of a Bill Clinton-era Congress declared in 1996 that the policy of the U.S. was to leave the Internet “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”