Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced today that he wants the FCC to reclassify Internet providers as utility providers under the FCC’s Title II authority. In a surprise move, he also announced the new rules will also apply to cellular data providers.
“I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”
Internet providers such as Comcast and Time Warner can be expected to vigorously fight the FCC’s effort, likely claiming this will stifle competition, (most cable Internet providers face little-to-no competition), and that it will be bad for the Internet.
“The internet wouldn’t have emerged as it did, for instance, if the FCC hadn’t mandated open access for network equipment in the late 1960s. Before then, AT&T prohibited anyone from attaching non-AT&T equipment to the network. The modems that enabled the internet were usable only because the FCC required the network to be open.”
The FCC’s proposal basically looks to establish the current operating conditions of the Internet as the standard going forward.
The FCC’s surprise announcement that it also plans to apply these rules to mobile network providers shows that the commission’s previous hands-off attitude toward wireless carriers may be coming to an end, and that the commission will begin to enforce net neutrality on the cellular industry.
The proposal will be voted on by the FCC on Feb. 26, and will likely pass. Congress may attempt to undermine the FCC’s authority with legislation, so the battle for net neutrality is far from over.