New net neutrality rules that could view Internet service providers as utilities under federal laws will be voted upon by the Federal Communications Commission on Feb. 26, according to public comments made by the FCC’s chairman on Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
In his appearance at CES, Wheeler “appeared to show he leaned toward regulating Internet service providers (ISPs) more strictly under Title II of the U.S. communications law,” which is an approach also supported by President Barack Obama, according to a Jan. 8 story by Reuters.
“The FCC has been working for nearly a year on new rules governing how ISPs manage Web traffic on their networks, and Wheeler said he will share his latest proposal with fellow commissioners on Feb. 5 and hold the vote on final regulations on Feb. 26,” reported Reuters.
Wheeler said the proposals will not allow ISPs to block or slow down Websites and won’t allow content companies to pay premium rights for faster access for their content, the story said. “We’re going to propose rules that say that no blocking [is allowed], no throttling, no paid prioritization,” Wheeler said, according to the story.
Net neutrality, the idea that the Internet should be accessible to everyone equally without provisions for fast lanes for those willing to pay extra, has been a stated policy of Obama since he ran for the presidency and was elected to his first term in 2008.
The issue of net neutrality has been a hotbed for several years, with proponents and opponents arguing their positions and bashing the opposition verbally in public forums and discussions.
In September, the FCC announced that it had received a record 3 million comments about proposed rules for net neutrality by a Sept. 15 deadline.
Meanwhile, a battle with Congress on the issue could be coming in the near future, warned a recent report by Politico. In a Dec. 29 story, Politico said that the newly elected, Republican-led Congress could be moving to fight Obama and the FCC on net neutrality proposals that are being readied for reviews.
“The Federal Communications Commission is racing to write rules that require Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, and many expect the agency will follow President Barack Obama’s call to treat broadband service like a utility,” according to the Politico report. “Some GOP members are planning to use their soon-to-be majority status to knock down the FCC’s net neutrality actions, perhaps even before any rules are announced in early 2015. And the growing tensions threaten to spill over into larger policy debates, as Congress takes on the complex process of updating the nation’s central communications laws.”
In November 2014, it appeared that Wheeler and Obama had some differences of opinion about net neutrality, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Instead of Obama’s more strongly worded proposal, Wheeler preferred a more subtle approach that would also address the concerns of the companies that provide Internet access to millions of Americans. Obama had earlier said that he wanted to see the FCC adopt Title II as a way to include ISPs in existing neutrality regulations. Title II refers to the Communications Act, which gives the FCC the power to regulate communications in the United States. Title II was originally intended to make sure that telephone companies provided service to anyone in their coverage area.
In October 2014, officials from AT&T, Comcast and Verizon told U.S. leaders that they do not plan to offer faster Internet access, or so-called “fast lanes,” to content producers who are willing to pay more to get their messages out in front of competitors’ transmissions, according to an earlier eWEEK story.