Loc: People's Republic of Illinois
U.S. Republicans have warned of a government takeover of the nation’s internet after President Joe Biden backed a measure by federal regulators to prevent “digital discrimination.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates America’s communications through cable, radio, television, satellite, and wire, introduced new guidelines to promote “equity and diversity” online.
Under the new FCC regulation, internet providers have their business practices scrutinized for “digital discrimination” based on income or race, raising legal risks for some of America’s most influential companies.
The agency and progressive groups argue that the stricter new regulation will help ensure universal access to services essential to modern life. They cite especially underserved communities of poor or minority Americans where fast internet is often lacking.
“Many of the communities that lack adequate broadband access are the same areas that suffer from long-standing patterns of residential segregation and economic disadvantage,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. The agency approved the rule in a 3-2 party-line v**e, sources have learned.
Internet providers and their Republican allies in the U.S. Congress oppose the measure, saying it would chill investment, undermining Biden’s declared economic recovery plans.
“This is taking a massive regulatory sledgehammer to every part and every service element of the broadband ecosystem,” said Jonathan Spalter, chief executive of the trade group USTelecom, whose members include communications giant AT&T and others. “It goes way beyond what Congress had insisted,” he added in published remarks.
The rule implements a provision in the 2021 infrastructure law telling the FCC to prevent “digital access discrimination based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin.”
The language made it into a bipartisan law as part of a package that included the largest-ever federal subsidies for expanding broadband service.
Yet, industry and Republic officials say the FCC is now going too far by seeking “to police” intentional discrimination and whether companies’ actions lead to “disparate impact.”
Critics also view it as broader plans by the Biden Administration to more closely monitor and regulate opinions expressed by individuals online.
However, FCC officials claim the new regulation will direct them to facilitate “equal opportunity to subscribe” to broadband service. Equal opportunity depends not “on the mindset of the actor, but rather the effect of the action,” said an FCC report explaining the rule.
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