The FCC will seek heavier regulation of the Internet. So what does this mean? Sources say FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to introduce a proposal that would reclassify high-speed Internet service as a public utility, according to a person who consulted with the FCC on the forthcoming proposal. Wheeler reportedly will hold a press briefing about his proposal on Tuesday and promised the FCC would vote on the rules at its Feb. 26 meeting.
KHON2’s digital director Jared Kuroiwa analyzed what this means for the consumer. “First off, we need to understand net neutrality. It’s the idea that Internet providers should not move some content faster than others or enter into paid agreements with companies such as Netflix to prioritize their data,” says Kuroiwa.
In other words, Internet providers should act more as open connections between content and users. However, providers want to be able to sell their infrastructure, allowing content producers that pay more to have better performance. This is what is being called “fast lanes.”
The problem is, he says, people are worried that the big content providers will get better service and the smaller startups or nonprofits will simply get shut out.
The FCC had used the 1996 Telecommunications Act, intended to encourage competition in the telephone and cable industry, to enforce “open Internet” rules, until recently, when a federal appeals court knocked down that approach. Now the FCC is saying it will treat the Internet as a utility and start regulating it through Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.
The commissioners will vote Feb. 26. Wheeler is expected to have the support of the other two Democratic commissioners. The two Republican commissioners have made clear that they do not support applying Title II.
Next stop will be the courts. Industry lobbyists and FCC officials say there’s no doubt one of the big providers will sue and probably ask the court to suspend enforcement of the new regulation pending appeal. This could last years.