FCC to Apply Strictest Possible Regulation to Broadband ISPs

After months of discussion, debate, and sifting through millions of public comments, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler details the FCC’s long-awaited proposal on how the FCC intends to regulate the Internet in an op-ed featured in Wired magazine. In his article Wheeler states,

… I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line 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.”

Wheeler’s article comes shortly after President Obama’s call for the FCC to take a stronger approach to Internet regulation, suggesting the classification broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as utilities regulated by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

AT&T, Verizon, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association have all expressed that invoking Title II to regulate broadband ISPs is an overreach of the FCC’s authority and legal action will be taken against the FCC should such regulation be pursued. Thus far, Comcast has not declared whether it will take legal action against the FCC if Title II is applied, but that may be due to the pending approval of its merger with Time Warner by the FCC.

Although the FCC and ISPs both make consumer-centric arguments for their stances on broadband Internet regulation, neither side has addressed the financial burden of such costly litigation that will inevitably be passed onto consumers (via taxes and broadband bills) should there be a challenge to the FCC’s decision.

Joe Colangelo, Executive Director of Consumers’ Research expresses his concern for Wheeler’s latest proposal stating, “Title II authority is a dramatic step to reclassify a service that has grown so far without strict government oversight. The story of the American Internet is the story of a successful marketplace in action that has grown without government mandate or regulation to be able to serve 98% of American homes. The Internet becomes faster every year because companies compete to serve consumers better. While well-intentioned, such a move by the FCC may have unintended consequences, as we’ve seen happen, say, with the implementation of strict lending rules on banks that ultimately result in harming those who were meant to be helped.”

An FCC vote on Wheeler’s proposal is slated to take place by Feb. 26.

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Kyle Burgess is the co-founder of two social enterprises and has worked in strategy, communications, and program management for a decade. Kyle received her Master’s degree in International Relations & Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University.


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