The US government wants to turn internet service providers into “information super-cities” by regulating them as monopolies.
And it wants to do it in ways that can’t be easily overridden by a court order.
The rules, which were published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday, are intended to stop internet service companies from blocking or throttling traffic.
It will be the biggest attempt yet by regulators to regulate the internet as a public utility.
The regulations aim to prevent internet service firms from making a profit by charging customers for priority access to the internet, or “fast lanes”.
The FCC has previously been accused of imposing undue pressure on ISPs to deliver the most efficient service to its customers, or failing to do so.
The FCC rules do not limit internet service provider access to specific services, but will only allow them to make payments to internet service users based on the number of “fast lane” requests they receive.
They will also require internet service operators to offer a guaranteed minimum of one-third of the available “fast” lanes, or an equivalent speed of 10 megabits per second (Mbps).
That will mean ISPs would have to pay ISPs to speed up traffic to their customers in exchange for the right to offer prioritised access to a subset of their customers.
The government wants ISPs to pay to get priority access and, if they don’t comply, they will be fined.
The rules are designed to stop companies like Comcast from making profits by charging internet users to access its fast lanes.
The rules also prohibit the FCC from reclassifying internet service as a “common carrier service”, a designation that would allow them, like cable companies, to make profits off the prioritised service.
Critics say the rules are too vague and will lead to internet companies having greater control over how consumers use the internet.
Some internet companies have already started challenging the rules in court, arguing they violate the US constitution’s free speech protections.