The Federal Communications Commission is about to fundamentally change the way it oversees high-speed Internet service, proposing to regulate it as a public utility.
Chairman Tom Wheeler is reaching for a significant expansion of the agency’s authority to regulate broadband providers, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
The move would fully embrace the principle known as net neutrality, and if enacted, would bring a new definition to the economics of the Internet industry: Rather than regulating broadband firms lightly, as has been its practice so far, the FCC would treat them like telecommunications companies and subject them to more intrusive regulation, especially in areas relating to how they manage traffic on their networks.
A central element would be a ban on broadband providers blocking, slowing down or speeding up specific websites in exchange for payment, these people say. Supporters of the FCC’s position say allowing some websites to pay for faster access to consumers would put startups and smaller companies at a disadvantage.