The Federal Communications Commission is moving to ban Internet service from cities with populations above a certain threshold and to impose strict new requirements for local broadband providers, as part of its fight against what it sees as the threat of “overregulation.”
The rules, which will go into effect in three years, will limit the number of broadband providers in a jurisdiction and require that the providers have at least 30 percent of the local broadband market.
That would apply only to companies that operate under a state-run franchise or are under federal ownership.
The rules are the result of an investigation into the impact of Internet regulation in Washington state, which has become a hotspot for the FCC’s efforts to block new Internet services and to curb the spread of spam and malware.
The commission has been looking for ways to crack down on Internet service in the state and has sought input from cities and businesses about their strategies.
In the commission’s view, the rules will limit competition and hurt innovation.
The FCC is taking a wait-and-see approach to whether it will apply the rules, a spokeswoman said, because there are no immediate changes planned.
The agency will now conduct an analysis of the effect of the rules and then take a final decision about whether to implement them.
The final order, expected next month, will determine whether to apply the new rules to all jurisdictions.
The move by the FCC to ban municipal broadband service is a departure from past FCC actions that allowed some municipal broadband providers to expand their service to a certain number of residents, and it will not affect the existing agreements between the commission and such providers.
That means the new rule will apply only in Washington.
The new rules will apply to all states and localities, the FCC said.
In response to the new restrictions, AT&T said it would continue to provide internet service to residents of Seattle, and Comcast said it was “actively reviewing our options.”
The FCC’s move comes as the company is embroiled in an internal probe of whether it has been unfairly penalizing its Internet customers.
AT&G has been fined $10 million and is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
The company has denied the accusations.
In a statement, AT &T said the company has been transparent about the commission investigation, and said it “continues to provide competitive and affordable broadband service to all our customers, regardless of where they live, where they work or where they go to school.”
The Federal Communications Commision said the new policy will “protect consumers from unfair, unreasonable or deceptive acts and practices.”
“By making sure that broadband providers are operating as they should, the new net neutrality rules will help protect consumers, small businesses and communities from the unfair, excessive or deceptive practices and practices that harm competition, innovation and consumers’ right to access broadband Internet,” the FCC spokeswoman said.