Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler isn’t messing around when it comes to net neutrality. In an op-ed posted by Wired today, he revealed the framework for a new proposal he’ll be bringing to the FCC, which will provide tighter regulations for broadband providers.
Wheeler said that his proposal will regulate wired and mobile broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. It’s a sweeping move that he says will “ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.” The change is good news for net neutrality advocates, who have been pushing the commission to adopt Title II regulation ever since its previous Open Internet Order was struck down by an appellate court last year. It could, depending on the details, lay the groundwork for regulating broadband more like a public utility.
One of the important and unprecedented moves included in Wheeler’s proposal is the reclassification of mobile broadband under Title II. It’s a move that would prevent wireless carriers from implementing throttling and paid prioritization tactics.
“I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said that the commission would be “tailoring (Title II) for the 21st century” under the new rules, avoiding tariffs, rate regulation and last-mile unbundling in order to encourage continued investment and competition.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised Wheeler’s proposal in a speech on the Senate floor.
“What we have done with this announcement today is put a stake in the ground to protect consumers,” Cantwell said. “This announcement will set a clear framework for the innovation economy and the millions of jobs that depend on it across our nation. It marks a game-changing milestone for American innovations and consumers. This is a comprehensive plan that will protect consumers while allowing flexibility for business growth and investment.”
We don’t have the complete story just yet, since Wheeler’s full proposal hasn’t been circulated. Even if the proposal is approved by the commission, net neutrality is far from a sure thing. AT&T is rumored to be preparing a lawsuit to dispute the commission’s reclassification, and Republican members of Congress have already drawn up a draft bill that would put a different framework in place.
The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal during its meeting on February 26.