Consumer advocates are pushing back against the Federal Communications Authority’s proposal to reclassify broadband as a Title II service.
The agency announced Wednesday it would begin to reevaluate its rules governing the internet.
The FCC’s proposal, known as Title II, will be the first step toward reclassifying broadband as common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act, the agency said.
“If Title II is not reclassified, broadband providers could be forced to provide access to consumers in ways that are not in their best interest,” the agency wrote in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC.
“This would not be a good outcome for consumers, as it would leave them with fewer options for online services.”
The proposal would not require the FCC to re-classify any other types of broadband service, such as fixed wireless or mobile phone service, as long as it did so in accordance with the law.
The FCC previously announced that it would reclassification broadband as an internet service under a rule that the agency put in place in 2015.
The FCC’s reclassifications came as the agency grappled with how to regulate the internet in the wake of the 2016 election.
In April 2017, the FCC voted unanimously to classify broadband as telecommunications service under the Telecommunications Act, a move that has since been reversed.
But the agency has been under pressure to reregulate broadband under Title I of the Telecommunications Acts since the election, which led to a legislative proposal that would have made it a telecommunications service.
If the FCC is able to rework the Title II reclassulation process to reorient the rules, the public and companies could be left with fewer choices for online access, said Michael Weinberg, president of the Institute for Justice, a consumer-focused legal advocacy organization.
Under the reclassified status, consumers would still be able to access websites like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media.
But if they are charged a fee for accessing them, that could make the service less accessible to consumers.
The agency has also been criticized for failing to classify internet services as a telecommunications, which is a form of government service.
Under Title II regulations, the federal government could not require internet service providers to pay for internet service.
Weakening the rules would be a violation of the US Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable government regulation, the Federal Communication Commission wrote in its proposal.
The rule will take effect in 2019.
The public comment period for the reclassified status ends on July 26.