An announcement from the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday proposing to reinstate “net neutrality” regulations could reshape the future of the internet — as well as further fuel the debate over government censorship of online speech. 

The debate over whether internet service providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, are a public utility that should be regulated by the FCC has been ongoing for years. Net neutrality rules, first imposed by the Obama administration and then rescinded during President Trump’s term, don’t allow internet providers to charge higher rates for faster speed and access to certain websites.

Now, a day after Democrats gained a majority in the FCC for the first time during President Biden’s term, the commission is beginning the process of restoring the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

“I believe this repeal of net neutrality put the agency on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the public,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Tuesday. “So today we begin a process to make this right. This afternoon, I am sharing with my colleagues a rulemaking that proposes to restore net neutrality.”

The commission will vote on the rulemaking on October 19 and then open the regulations up to public comment, Ms. Rosenworcel said. 

Supporters of net neutrality say the rules are essential to ensuring that internet service providers — who may themselves own entertainment and content services — can’t discriminate against competitor’s content, while opponents argue the regulations may disincentivize companies from building out services to rural parts of the country and lead to government censorship. 

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