In a blow to US operators, telecom regulator the FCC has decided to introduce tight new controls on the sector in a move which lays the groundwork for net neutrality laws.
The FCC will today detail a plan to tighten the regulatory framework for broadband service providers, a department official told FT.com.
This would allow the regulatory body to introduce net neutrality laws, an issue that has been on the FCC's agenda for some time.
Last month a US court ruled that the FCC currently lacks the jurisdiction to regulate for net neutrality. But if the FCC changes the classification of broadband providers into the Title II category, - or telecommunications service providers – its powers will be magnified.
The body merely requires a vote by its five members to change classifications.
While the FCC is entitled to implement rules on wider issues such as rates or unbundling for Title II services, it is expected to waive these in favour of neutrality-only regulations.
But this may be cold comfort for US operators, which have long been pushing for the ability to charge web companies like Google higher rates for access to its network.
The FCC’s decision could prove a benchmark for Europe, where the European Commission has shot-down calls from leading telcos for content providers to pay more for high-bandwidth services.
Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes last month said any moves to introduce variable pricing “is potentially discriminatory in character,” and vowed to protect net neutrality in the region.