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Net-Neutrality Plan To Put FCC In A Thicket It Has Avoided: Chairman Tom Wheeler To Invite Debate On Classifying Broadband As A Utility

Publication Date: 
May 13, 2014
The Wall Street Journal
Gautham Nagesh

Professor Barbara van Schewick weighs in on the FCC Chairman's latest proposal for internet regulation for The Wall Street Journal. 

When Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler releases his plan to regulate broadband networks on Thursday, he will invite debate on whether the government should make a move the agency has long avoided: classifying broadband Internet as a public utility for regulatory purposes.

While it sounds obscure, the movement for such reclassification has become something of a rallying cry among advocates of net neutrality, the idea that broadband companies must treat all Internet traffic equally. With reclassification, the providers would be subject to far greater regulation on everything from pricing to how they interconnect with other networks.


Stanford Law professor Barbara Van Schewick said the FCC can't ban paid deals without reclassifying broadband. If the agency chooses to follow Mr. Wheeler's plan, she said, it must allow broadband providers to strike the deals with content companies to enforce the no-blocking rule.