The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced recently he would seek to reclassify broadband Internet as a common carrier service so the government could enforce net neutrality rules, something that President Obama supports. Some telecom executives and Republicans in Congress are calling this an “extreme” and “backwards” proposal, and they’re investigating the President’s role in pushing for it.
But we’ve only reached this pivotal moment in the net neutrality debate because of past efforts by corporate lobbyists and their political allies to weaken the government’s ability to protect the open Internet. Without the telecommunications industry’s massive power to design policies in its favor, the government would most likely already have the authority it needs to ensure net neutrality.
In the early 2000s, back when Gmail was still for Garfield fans only, policymakers were facing important questions about the nature of broadband Internet and how it should be treated by regulators. The last major telecommunications bill was passed by Congress in 1996 and since then the technology had advanced rapidly, with two different services, cable Internet and digital subscriber line (DSL), becoming widely available.
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