FCC Chairman Wheeler wants “significant expansion of the agency’s authority to regulate broadband providers.”
While we’re still waiting to see exactly what broadband-focused rules and regulations the FCC proposes, last night’s report by the Wall Street Journal gives us some insight on what to expect from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.
The ruleset being crafted by the FCC will “fully embrace the principle known as net neutrality,” and the move would bring ISPs in line with how telecommunications companies (cellular service providers) are regulated by the government. Most important? The rules would not allow providers to alter Internet traffic in any meaningful way — no blocking, no slowdown, and no fast lane access across the board.
Another area that would come under regulation would be “paid-peering” deals, or agreements that allow content provider and network middlemen (like Netflix) to negotiate network access deals with ISPs. These deals will not be banned by the new ruleset, but the FCC will have oversight to ensure the deals don’t clash with approved regulations. These deals aren’t the fast lane access referenced up above, either; instead, such deals ensure that massive bandwidth users like Netflix don’t completely swamp a network management, ensuring network stability on one end, and no bandwidth throttling on the other.
All of these new rules would effectively come via reclassification of ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This plan, pushed by President Obama, was initially shot down by the FCC, but the commission has seemingly come around to the President’s thinking.
The FCC is expected to announce its new rules on Thursday, as the battle between content providers and ISPs comes to its latest head. On one side, there are ISPs and hardware manufacturers arguing that reclassification is too aggressive and restrictive. On the other? Content providers and distributors like Google and Netflix, who fear that a lack of regulation could lead to a pay-to-play internet of sorts.
If the rules are indeed announced on Thursday, it’s not going to be the end of the story. Expect at least one court battle, spearheaded by the cable companies, as was the case in early 2014.