Today, in a statement given to Wired, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler revealed his plan to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. It's a striking victory for net neutrality advocates who have been fighting for years to solidify internet protections using Title II authority — and it's the first time the FCC has shown enough backbone to draw a line in the sand against companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, who are sure to fight viciously in courts to reverse this action.
"I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC," Wheeler wrote. "These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services."
"My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want."
The biggest revelation from the proposal is the decision to lump wireless networks in with wired broadband, something the FCC has avoided doing for years thanks to enormous pressure from Verizon and AT&T. "I propose to fully apply — for the first time ever — those bright-line rules to mobile broadband," Wheeler wrote. "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." Including wireless providers in the rules is a hugely important move, since we've seen that the biggest players have been willing and able to abuse internet openness. AT&T once blocked FaceTime for completely arbitrary reasons, and most recently, T-Mobile has disregarded the principles of net neutrality by giving some music companies special exemptions from data caps.
Wheeler specifically calls out AT&T in his statement as justification for the kind of regulation the FCC now seeks, noting that the internet as we know it wouldn't exist if the commission had not established open access rules in the 1960s. "Before then, AT&T prohibited anyone from attaching non-AT&T equipment to the network," Wheeler wrote. "The modems that enabled the internet were usable only because the FCC required the network to be open."
"The modems that enabled the internet were usable only because the FCC required the network to be open."