Tomorrow is the big day that many have been anxiously awaiting. The FCC will vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications act, subjecting them to public utility regulations in order to protect net neutrality. The new rules are designed to prevent ISPs from meddling with web traffic on the networks they operate, following massive backlash from a previous proposal which would have opened the door for ISPs to charge content providers for so called Internet “fast lanes.” After a recordbreaking number of comments poured in, totaling almost 4 million, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the fast lane plan, the FCC was sent back to the drawing board with a fairly clear mandate to protect net neutrality.
Lobbyists for the telecoms and cable companies are predictably less than pleased with the FCC’s plans, which seem to be going foward despite an all-out lobbying effort against Title II. Intersetingly enough, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is a former cable lobbyist, previously heading up the National Cable and Telecom Association. Wheeler and the rest of the FCC are expected to pass the new proposal tomorrow, much to the ire of the chairman’s former employers like the NCTA.
Despite allegations of the contrary from the ISPs, as well as Republican members of the FCC, the regulatory agency is expected to forbear from some of the most onerous aspects of Title II, such as rate regulation. Despite opposition from big cable and telcos, other large corporations largely support the concept of net neutrality and Chairman Wheeler’s proposal. Silicon Valley companies from Google to Netflix have signed on in support, and even companies like Sprint have surprised many by showing their support or at least acknowledging that Title II really wouldn’t be so bad.