On Thursday, the US government is expected to propose new net neutrality rules that would treat the internet more like a public utility. According to several reports, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal will reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This is great news — if true.
This is not the first we’ve heard of this news. For months now, rumours have been circulating that Wheeler would throw out the much loathed net neutrality rules that passed last year, dealing a blow to the open internet. President Obama lit a fire in November when he outlined his vision for what the FCC should do, and called on the agency to reclassify high speed internet as a utility. Within a few months, rumours leaked that Wheeler was planning to follow Obama’s lead and do just that. And since the agency just redefined broadband to help bring faster connections to rural citizens, it seems increasingly likely that the agency take a more aggressive approach towards protecting net neutrality too.
But who knows. The FCC is an independent agency that doesn’t have to do what the president wants. It’s also an agency that’s known to have many close ties with the big telecom industry that stands to lose money if strict net neutrality rules go into effect. The FCC — namely its revolving door to and from the telecom industry — is also just historically tricky. So don’t expect those pro-open internet rules to pass themselves.
You can probably expect a draft of the new FCC net neutrality rules to get leaked this week. (Again, they’re due to be released internally on February 5.) The FCC is expected to vote on the rules at its next meeting on February 26.
Picture: Daniel Stuckey