Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman, is expected to propose new regulations that would make the internet a regulated utility, a move that would ultimately ensure net neutrality. The initiative, which has been supported by President Obama, would eliminate the likelihood of providers blocking content and “pay to play” internet fast lanes that would in fact throttle non-premium users.
The proposal would shift internet services from an information service to telecommunication under Title II of the Communication Act allowing greater government regulation. While the proposal would allow for more stringent oversight its language would avoid the internet falling under the same scrutiny as more heavily regulated utilities like gas and electric to avoid government legislation over issues like pricing.
Net neutrality has been a hot button topic for the last two years. Proponents of net neutrality claim that a prioritized internet, either through blocking of information or the creation of “internet highways,” by ISPs allows for unfair competition against competing standalone services. The most popular example being an ISP like Comcast being able to throttle bandwidth allocated to video services like Netflix as a means to steer customers to their own on demand services.
Those against net neutrality argue that additional government control stifles open market creativity and funding of projects that would bolster the country’s high speed internet infrastructure. As of last year the U.S. ranked 10th in the world for internet economy. Those against neutrality also argue that a prioritized internet can ensure service for top priority services like health care as opposed to sharing the same bandwidth pool with the public at large.
Slated to be submitted Thursday, the proposal will not be made readily available to the public and will be voted on February 26. Commissioner Wheeler first gave notice of the proposal and impending vote at the January CES convention in Las Vegas.