In a stunning reversal of his previous position, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced that he changed his views regarding net neutrality and now says he does believe Internet Service Providers should be regulated as common carriers. This model, where ISPs are treated like utilities, opens the way for regulation to prevent tiered services that would splinter the internet between those that can pay for preferred faster lanes of content and those who cannot.

Wheeler’s announcement came before an expected unveiling to be made today to officially endorse a regulatory framework that ensures all internet traffic will be treated equally. The shift within the FCC to embrace net neutrality appears to be at the behest of the White House as Chairman Wheeler’s initial position was to allow tiered services and not regulate ISP as utilities.

The president called for Mr. Wheeler to regulate broadband providers like telecommunications companies under Title II of the Communications Act, the portion that governs common carriers, like the old landline phone system. Mr. Wheeler’s original plan had avoided such a move, but he gradually moved closer to the approach over the past year, after both the White House’s intervention and opposition to his initial concept.

The proposal would also give the FCC the authority to regulate deals on the back-end portion of the Internet, where broadband providers such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. pick up traffic from big content companies such as Netflix Inc. and network middlemen like Level 3 Communications Inc. Deals between companies like Netflix and Internet providers aim to ensure connections are maintained without any disruption, and are designed to prevent any one firm from swamping the network with traffic.

Once enacted it is likely that the telcom giants will sue the FCC, something they did successfully over previous net neutrality rules. But that previous victory in January of 2014 may have been a Pyrrhic one as it forced a confrontation that led to the current common carrier rules – invoking Title II – that appear to have a better chance in court. The ISP industry has claimed they want Congress to make any such rules which is unsurprising given how corrupt and pro-Big Business the current Congress is.

Though the rules will be proposed today they will not be voted on until the 26th which gives the ISP lobbyists some time to maneuver though it looks as though they overplayed their hand this time and are set for some heartbreak.

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.