FCC chairman: Here's how I want to regulate the Internet

Net neutrality explained, once & for all
Net neutrality explained, once & for all

In an op-ed for Wired on Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says he's going to propose regulating high-speed Internet like a public utility.

It's a wildly different legal take on the Internet than the way it has been regulated in the past. It means more oversight for the likes of AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Verizon (VZ).

And to what end? Net neutrality. It's like equal opportunity for Internet speeds and access to websites.

Wheeler's essay for Wired explained why's he's taking this route.

"I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC," 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."

Wheeler said his proposed rules will keep Internet providers from blocking legal websites. It'll also prevent them from slowing down certain services, like Netflix, for filling up their wires with lots of data.

And importantly, Wheeler said these rules won't just apply to the cables that connect to your home. For the first time in history, they'll also apply to mobile broadband. That means if an app or service exists online, your mobile carrier can't prevent you from using it on your smartphone.

This addresses a real problem. For example, Verizon blocked Google Wallet back in 2011. Verizon also blocked the PayPal app's fingerprint authorization this year.

Wheeler's proposal will also ban Internet fast lanes and slow lanes, an FCC official said. That means Internet providers can't set up bridge tolls, charging extra to Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG) for faster lanes to your home.

But the FCC will still allow back-end deals that give content providers faster access to broadband companies' networks, an agency official said. The difference now is that -- for the first time -- if a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu complains about unfair fees, the agency will step in and fight with the telecom company.

Wheeler will present his detailed proposal to fellow commissioners on Thursday. The actual document will become public when they vote on it later this month.

Telecoms are already seething. On Monday, AT&T said it's gearing up for a legal battle with the FCC. It's worth noting that the last time the FCC tried something like this, it lost a legal battle with Verizon.

The FCC is ready to fight back, Wheeler told CNET last month.

Yet telecom companies could have had it worse. Many expected Wheeler to announce fee caps, but the chairman promised to not meddle with rates.

That sent shares of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon all up after the news. Google (GOOG) and Netflx shares were slightly lower.

Obama to FCC: Keep Internet free and open
Obama to FCC: Keep Internet free and open

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