WASHINGTON, DC: US internet users face larger bills and being blocked from accessing some websites as a result of FCC plans to dismantle regulations that ensure internet providers treat all web traffic equally.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed lifting existing “heavy-handed, utility-style regulations” which he claimed had “depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation”.

Instead, he wants to reclassify broadband internet access service as an information service, with the FCC to limiting itself to requiring internet service providers to be transparent about their practices “so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate”.

Aides suggested that one outcome could be lower prices for consumers, the Wall Street Journal reported, as ISPs would be able to strike paid deals with websites for faster delivery of their content.

But many observers expect the opposite, as the expense incurred by larger internet and media companies that have to pay their carriers more for high-speed services, will inevitably trickle down to households.

Independent technology analyst Roger L. Kay told the New York Times that consumers “will end up paying higher prices for essentially the same service”.

And Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, noted that the current proposals, which will be voted on next month, would permit broadband carriers to block media content, a development he described as “pretty shocking”.

Analysts have also observed that there is only one internet provider available in some regional and rural markets, which rather undermines Pai’s argument about consumer choice.

The future internet, said Wired, could resemble an extreme version of today’s mobile plans, with different pricing tiers for different levels of video quality for different apps.“That means more customer choice, but perhaps not in the way anyone actually wants.”

Sourced from FCC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Wired; additional content by WARC staff