If President Obama gets his wish, AT&T said it will scale back its capital investments in broadband infrastructure. According to former Federal Communications Commission staffers, the U.S. president is likely to get his wish and regulators will indeed classify broadband Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
If Internet service providers are treated as "common carriers" and the Internet as a public utility, the FCC will have significantly more control over telecommunications companies.
With Internet fast lanes already open and serving traffic to any entity that can afford the tolls, the FCC appears to be on the cusp of drawing up legislation that will give it control over the practice and, if free Internet advocates get their way, shut down the practice of prioritization all together, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
Opponents of controlling the Internet under Title II have called the 1934 communications act draconian and outdated. Obama has proposed cannibalizing the best parts of the act and modernizing with new parts, but some telecommunications companies and other big businesses have fought against the idea.
"[I believe] the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act -- while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services," stated Obama.
Comcast -- which is at the mercy of the FCC for a proposed, yet uncertain, merger with Time Warner -- has stated that it intends to play by whatever rules the FCC establishes, though it is wary of any legislation that leverages Title II.
"We are trying to work with the FCC, with the Congress, with the administration to forge an outcome that everyone can live with and doesn't do harm to the investment cycle and innovation cycle," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts back in November of 2014.
AT&T, however, sang with a different, more pronounced tone.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson revealed that his company was mulling the idea of scaling back or scraping the deployment of more fiber optic infrastructure in the hundred cities in which it planned to invest.
"It's prudent to pause," said Stephenson back in November. "We want to make sure we have line of sight on this process and where these rules could land, and then re-evaluate."
The full-text of the FCC's proposal is expected to be released on Feb. 5, which will be followed by a Feb. 26 vote on the matter.