Biden-Sanders Task Force Backs Net Neutrality, Municipal Broadband

The Democratic “unity" task force, put together by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wants to empower the Federal Communications Commission to police how broadband providers treat internet traffic.

“Democrats will restore the FCC's clear authority to take strong enforcement action against broadband providers who violate net neutrality principles through blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or other measures that create artificial scarcity and raise consumer prices for this vital service,” the task force writes in a 110-page set of recommendations released this week.

In 2015, the Obama-era FCC issued an order that classified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier rules, including prohibitions on blocking and throttling traffic, and on charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

Two years later, the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal that order. Among other consequences, the repeal effectively stripped the FCC of the ability to police broadband providers' traffic management practices.

The task force also came out in favor of municipal broadband.

“Democrats will take action to prevent states from blocking municipalities and rural co-ops from building publicly-owned broadband networks, and increase federal support for municipal broadband,” the recommendations state.

The Obama-era FCC, which also supported municipal broadband, voted in 2015 to invalidate state laws that restrict towns from building their own fiber-optic networks.

That order was reversed the following year by a federal appellate court, which said the FCC lacked authority to override states' ability to regulate how their cities and towns provide web service.

The task force also recommends increasing investment in broadband and offering internet access subsidies to low-income Americans.

“As millions of Americans have stayed at home to prevent the spread of the pandemic, it is plain to see that in the 21st century, the Internet is not optional,” the recommendations state. “It is a vital tool for participating in the economy, and all Americans need access to high-speed, affordable broadband service.”

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