In what would be a step toward a big win for proponents of net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission this week is expected to propose that the internet be treated like other public utilities.
The proposal would reclassify internet service as a telecommunications service instead of an information service under Title II of the Communications Act, according to a report from the New York Times.
That change would allow the FCC to police internet service and make sure providers weren’t blocking content or allowing providers to be paid off to increase internet speeds.
While the proposal would consider internet to be a public utility, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that the government won’t get involved in price setting, as it has done with other utilities.
The FCC is expected to submit the proposal by Thursday, though copies of the plan may not be available until next week. The commission is expected to hold a vote on the proposal on 26 February.
US President Barack Obama in November took a strong stance favouring net neutrality. In a White House video, Mr Obama said “the idea of net neutrality has unleashed the power of the internet and given innovators the chance to thrive. Abandoning these principles would threaten to end the internet as we know it.”
Online companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix are among the biggest proponents of an open internet, while many internet providers have balked at the proposed reclassification to a public utility.
“The internet has not just appeared by accident or gift — it has been built by companies like ours investing and building networks and infrastructure,” Comcast said in a statement. “The policy the White House is encouraging would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the internet has generated.”
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