The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission this week is widely expected to propose regulating Internet service like a public utility, a move certain to unleash another round of intense debate and lobbying about how to ensure so-called net neutrality, or an open Internet.
It is expected that the proposal will reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Communications Act, according to industry analysts, lobbyists and former F.C.C. staff members.
The change, the analysts and others say, which has been pushed by President Obama, would give the commission strong legal authority to ensure that no content is blocked and no so-called pay-to-play fast lanes exist — prohibitions that are hallmarks of the net neutrality concept.
But Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C. chairman, will advocate a light-touch approach to Title II, they say, shunning the more intrusive aspects of utility-style regulation, like meddling in pricing decisions. He may also suggest putting wireless data services under Title II and adding regulations for companies that manage the backbone of the Internet.
The maneuvering in Washington over the proposal has already started. Congressional Republicans have proposed net neutrality legislation that bans content blocking and fast and slow lanes, but also prevents the F.C.C. from issuing regulations to achieve those goals.