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FCC chair holds roundtable on net neutrality in Campbell ahead of agency vote

The concept of net neutrality — the idea of an open, accessible and unregulated internet for everyone — has been a political battle for years. On April 25, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on restoring net neutrality as the law of the land. 

Ahead of that, FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel held a roundtable discussion about the vote with community leaders and agencies at the Santa Clara County Fire Department in Campbell Monday. 

She chose the site to focus on how restoring net neutrality would benefit public safety, pointing to how that very fire department had had its internet access throttled — or cut off — automatically when it hit its internet use cap during the 2018 Mendocino Fire. 

Rosenworcel heard from the department’s assistant fire chief, Brian Glass, who said fire agencies suddenly couldn’t coordinate resources out in the field. 

“The firefighters banded together using personal devices from different carriers that maybe weren’t being throttled or hadn’t reached the cap in order to get the job done,” Glass said. 

Despite the firefighters’ ingenuity or some states like California creating their own net neutrality laws, Rosenworcel said she’s called for the FCC vote to restore the oversight authority that it lost in 2017. 

“In a modern digital economy, I think it’s time that we have a national policy of internet openness,” Rosenworcel said.

The proposal got an endorsement from a carrier company, CEO Dane Jasper of 

“We, as carriers, should not be — in my opinion — picking and choosing not only what people can get to, but how it performs when they interconnect,” Jasper said. 

Stanford law professor Barbara van Schewick at the meeting pointed out, in the case of firefighters losing internet access, it doesn’t matter who was right or wrong. 

“What matters is, as they were fighting a fire — in the middle of one of the worst fires in California history — there was nobody firefighters could turn to to ensure that they get connection first and resolve the issue later,” said van Schewick, 

Three Trump administration-era FCC commissioners have been replaced by commissioners selected by the Biden administration, so the proposal to restore net neutrality has a good chance of passing. If it does, it would go into effect around 60 days after. 

Source: NBC Bay Area

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