Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Monday that he will propose that the agency declare broadband service a utility, in order to enact “the strongest open internet protections” in the agency's history.
“These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services,” Wheeler said in a column published in Wired.
Wheeler added that he will seek to apply those rules to mobile broadband. “My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission,” he wrote.
The proposal calls for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which is regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. But Wheeler only intends to apply some of Title II's provisions, according to a fact sheet provided by the FCC. One of the most important for purposes of enforcing open Internet principles is a restriction on “unjust and unreasonable” practices. Wheeler also intends to apply Title II's privacy protections for consumer data, and provisions guaranteeing fair access to utility poles.
The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog recently asked the FCC to craft an order that would apply privacy rules to broadband networks, while Google asked the FCC for guaranteed access to utility poles.
Wheeler does not seek to apply provisions relating to rate regulations, and says the order won't impose new taxes or fees.