In an unexpected move, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has come out in favor of enforcing net neutrality by classifying Internet service as a utility under Title II authority. The decision follows months of public debate after an earlier FCC vote favored of a “fast lane” solution, which would allow larger companies to pay for better service.
“The internet must be fast, fair and open,” Wheeler wrote in an opinion piece for Wired on Wednesday. “That is the message I’ve heard from consumers and innovators across this nation. That is the principle that has enabled the Internet to become an unprecedented platform for innovation and human expression.”
The debate over net neutrality attracted over 4 million public comments. Even President Obama came out in favor of Title II reclassification, which would put the Internet under the same protections as our phone lines. Now, it looks like Wheeler has taken those comments to heart, despite opposing arguments from the ISPs.
“Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests,” Wheeler notes. “But their actions may not always be optimal for network users.”
The decision isn’t set in stone yet, and Wheeler says the next step is to share his proposal with the rest of the FCC. The new rules would also cover mobile broadband for the first time, ensuring that net neutrality is protected on smartphones and tablets as well.
Of course, the fight for net neutrality isn’t over by a long shot, and carriers are likely to oppose Wheeler’s new rules assuming they do pass. Still, for the first time in a while it looks like the FCC is on track to help protect an open Internet.