Early in the week, US president Joe Biden signed a new executive order on promoting competition in the American economy. There were of course a series of provisions inside the order, including some important provisions on net neutrality. The issue had become a huge point of debate during the Trump era after the FCC at the time moved to roll back some Obama-era moves that were designed to guarantee net neutrality in the US.
But it seems Biden is stepping in to make things right with the new executive order. The provisions of the new Biden executive order are quite explicit in their approach. They directly mandate the Federal Communication Commissions or the FCC to promote the concept of net neutrality. The provisions also call for an open and equal Internet. But other new provisions will be enforced for the first time.
For instance, the new executive order will now task the FCC with reviving the “Broad Nutrition Label.” The concept was first conceived in 2016 but was later abandoned by the Trump administration. The labels are designed to provide a standardized format where broadband providers will provide details about the cost of service, data allowances, and performance details about their networks.
It’s the same kind of label you find in most food products only that this time you will be seeing details about the broadband. The Biden executive order is also hoping to make important steps towards increased price transparency when it comes to the cost of broadband. To this effect, the FCC will not require ISP providers to report their prices to the agency regularly.
Nonetheless, these rules will still need to be approved by the FCC even though they come directly from the White House. The Federal Communication Commission is typically designed to have 5 commissioners. Right now, there are only 4 and one will need to be appointed to bring in that tie-breaking vote.
However, acting chair of the FCC Jessica Rosenworcel said that she welcomed the move by the White House, saying that it will enhance “competition in the American economy and its communications sector.” But it is widely expected that Brendan Carr, the GOP appointed commissioner in the agency, will reject all of Biden's measures. Carr has already questioned the order saying that it “seems to double down on price controls.”
This he argues will make it hard for new and smaller ISP entrants to compete. Nonetheless, the large ISP providers in the US like Comcast and Verizon are yet to respond to the new move by the White House. But it is widely expected that they will push back on the executive order.
After all, the companies were very supportive of previous initiatives by the Trump administration. But the supporters of net neutrality have argued that the Biden administration has a role to play in repairing the damage caused by the previous administration. They see the new executive order as an important first step towards that goal.