After months of watching the FCC, and wondering how it will approach the net neutrality question, we may be about to find out. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the FCC is expected to reveal a proposal this week, and one that will indeed reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
With a proposal coming this week, a vote on it could come later this month, with February 26th rumored to be the day that the decision is put before the commission. Title II reclassification is seen by many ISPs as a sort of “nuclear option,” and they’ve lobbied long and hard against it. But since receiving almost 4 million comments on their previous net neutrality proposal, the overwhelming majority of which called for tougher net neutrality protections, the FCC has seemed more willing to be swayed by public opinion than by lobbyists. Title II is the approach favored by a large number of consumer advocacy groups, as well as President Obama, who began calling for it publicly back in November.
At the heart of the matter is what many perceive as a pay-to-play scheme. Previous proposals included provisions for “Internet fast lanes” which would allow ISPs to charge companies like Netflix for faster delivery of their content. Critics warned that this would lead to two-tiered Internet, in which deep-pocketed corporations would get preferential treatment, while startups relegated to a “slow lane” wouldn’t have a chance against more powerful incumbents. Prohibition of this type of prioritization is likely to be a centerpiece of the new plan.