FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is reversing course -- but only a little -- with his stance on enforcing net neutrality in the United States. New wording for proposed controls over net neutrality could be revealed as early as Monday, and while they won't stop carriers from striking bandwidth deals with content providers, they would include some restrictions he thinks will prevent dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes.
FCC is leaning more towards true net neutrality, but still isn't there
The current proposed rules would let companies such as Comcast and Verizon strike deals with content providers like Netflix for guaranteed faster data transfer through their networks. In effect, it would create a scenario where companies that can afford to pay will reliably get their data through to consumers, while others face lost data packets and degraded file transfer or streaming speeds.
Based on the current wording, ISPs can strike their deals, and then the FCC would launch an investigation into whether or not they're fair after a complaint is filed. The new wording will have the FCC more actively looking into those deals to make sure they don't place companies that haven't at a disadvantage, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The deals, called paid prioritization, sound like exactly the sort of thing that would put some companies at a disadvantage because the end result is exactly what the FCC says it's preventing: fast and slow lanes for Internet traffic.
Mr. Wheeler's proposed FCC rules don't fit completely with the concept of net neutrality where all data is treated equally as it passes through networks. His new changes, however, could help curb abuse by at least some ISPs.
"I won't allow some companies to force Internet users into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service," he said.
His new wording will also seek comments on whether or not Internet service should be considered a public utility -- something that the ISPs have been resisting, and so far Mr. Wheeler has been reluctant to push for. If Internet access were classified as a public utility, it would give the FCC broader control over how it operates, and that's something ISPs don't want.
Mr. Wheeler is pushing for a vote this Thursday that would then open the process to public comments. Once that happens, it's a safe bet that the following debate will be heated considering the control ISPs want directly clashes with the unfettered data flow net neutrality proponents are hoping for.