The FCC is reportedly planning to propose a "hybrid approach" to Net neutrality that partially reclassifies Internet service providers as common carriers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is looking to regulate parts of the services that ISPs provide as utilities, which would essentially put Internet services in the same category as electricity, water and gas.

While the proposal aims to impose tighter regulations on ISPs, it is almost certain to draw criticism from Net neutrality advocates. It allows certain types of deals between ISPs and companies for faster delivery of services, something that has long been opposed by Net neutrality proponents.

The report, which based its claims on information from "people familiar with his (Wheeler's) thinking," said that the agency will segregate Internet services into two categories, one for regular consumers and another for content providers.

"The plan now under consideration would separate broadband into two distinct services: a retail one, in which consumers would pay broadband providers for Internet access; and a back-end one, in which broadband providers serve as the conduit for websites to distribute content. The FCC would then classify the back-end service as a common carrier, giving the agency the ability to police any deals between content companies and broadband providers," the article read.

The reclassification, which the FCC can invoke under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, gives the agency the right to set parameters on the dealings of ISPs with content companies. The law prohibits common carriers from making "any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services." This means that if the FCC's plan pushes through, it would have the right to create its own rules to block deals that it considers inappropriate.

According to the report, reclassification "would leave the door open for broadband providers to offer specialized services for, say, video gamers or online video providers, which require a particularly large amount of bandwidth."

The proposal partly incorporates suggestions from the Mozilla Foundation and the Center for Democracy & Technology. The FCC leadership is said to favor the plan because unlike full reclassification, it wouldn't require them to reverse decisions that paved the way for the deregulation of Internet providers.

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