Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Wheeler said he is in favor of reclassifying broadband as a public utility. The move would subject Internet service providers to some of the rules under Title II of the U.S. communications law, which was put in place in 1934 to govern phone companies.
Net neutrality advocates, including President Obama, have said Title II will create an “open Internet” by preventing providers from charging content companies for faster service, and prohibiting them from slowing down others who choose not to pay.
"We're going to propose rules that say that no blocking (is allowed), no throttling, no paid prioritization," Wheeler said.
That contradicts his previous net neutrality proposal, which would have scrutinized deals between Internet providers and content companies in order to speed up service. Those deals that passed the test would have been approved, creating an “Internet fast lane” for paying companies.
That standard sparked a huge outcry from the public, and the FCC received millions of comments on its website, the majority of which called for strict net neutrality.
Late last year, President Obama, who appointed fellow Democrat Wheeler to the FCC in November 2013, called for strict net neutrality regulation under Title II.
On Wednesday, Wheeler insisted the change in his views was not caused by pressure from the president, but rather, he and his colleagues realized last summer that his initial proposal was not feasible, and were already taking a strong look at Title II.
Reclassification would meet strong opposition in the Republican-dominated Congress, and some members have already requested that Wheeler wait for lawmakers to propose a solution. They argue that Wheeler’s plan will hinder investment and innovation.
Wheeler said he will share his latest proposal with fellow commissioners on Feb. 5 and hold the vote on final regulations on Feb. 26.