The Federal Commission is expected to announce later this week that it plans to reclassify Interent service providers as utilities, giving it the authority needed to regulate the companies to preserve net neutrality. The proposed change to the way broadband Internet providers will be classified would let the FCC block companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from establishing "fast lanes" they force content providers to pay for or face intentionally throttled bandwidth.
FCC ready to propose changes to protect net neutrality
Industry analysts and lobbyists said the FCC will push to group ISPs as a telecommunication service under Title II of the Communications Act, according to the New York Times. That change would give the FCC much more authority over ISP practices, but chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to stay away from heavy-handed management while still watching closely to make sure no content is intentionally throttled or blocked.
Net neutrality is a concept where all content on the Internet is treated equally and allowed to pass through the various servers that send and deliver data to end users. It's an idea that companies such as Comcast and Verizon say they support, but in practice have shown otherwise. Both companies, for example, strong armed Netflix into paying them extra money for reliable video stream quality by limiting bandwidth for streaming videos it delivered to subscribers.
President Barack Obama is on board with the idea, and even publicly called for the FCC to reclassify ISPs under Title II.
Those companies that give us our highspeed Internet access aren't, however, pleased with the notion that the FCC could stop them from tapping content providers for more money. Verizon threatened last year it would sue the FCC, and AT&T said it wouldn't build out its high speed fiber network—both in hopes of stopping the agency from moving forward.
The last time the FCC tried to regulate Net Neutrality, Verizon filed a lawsuit and won. The court ruled that the FCC couldn't treat Internet providers common carriers while at the same time exempting them from those rules. The court also urged the FCC to find a way to regulate net neutrality that would hold up in court.
With that in mind, Mr. Wheeler made it clear late last year he is ready for the fight. He said,
We are going to get sued, because that's the history. We don't want to ignore history. We want to come out with good rules that accomplish what we need to accomplish: no blocking, no throttling, no fast-lane discrimination…and we want those rules to be in place after a court decision.
The FCC posponed its vote on how to handle net neutrality until this year so it could be better prepared for the coming fight, and now it looks like we're about to see the next round in that battle. We won't know exactly what the FCC has in mind until their plan gets leaked to the media, but when we do it's a safe bet the big name ISPs will dive in right away looking for weaknesses in the agency's plan.