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FCC Proposal Would Classify Internet As A Public Utility

Updated at 1:51 p.m. ET

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has outlined his vision of the Internet, saying his agency should use its authority "to implement and enforce open Internet protections."

In an op-ed piece in Wired magazine, Wheeler writes:

"Using this authority [Title II of the Telecommunications Act], 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 plan would pave the way toward regulating the Internet as a public utility, an idea backed by President Obama but strongly opposed by some cable companies and their lobbying firms that say it will hurt investment. [NPR's Joel Rose has reported on this aspect of the story.]

Doug Brake, telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, called Wheeler's proposal "an unjustified, overblown response to what has in actuality been a by and large hypothetical concern."

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called the move "a stake in the ground to protect consumers."

As NPR's Elise Hu noted earlier today, the old rules on net neutrality were struck down by a federal court in January 2014.

And this is how Elise explains net neutrality: "Net neutrality is the concept that your Internet provider should be a neutral gateway to everything on the Internet, not a gatekeeper deciding to load some sites slower than others or impose fees for faster service."

The FCC has posted a fact sheet on Wheeler's proposals.

The new rules are expected to be unveiled on Thursday. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal Feb. 26.

For more detailed coverage of this topic, please visit our All Tech Considered blog.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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