WASHINGTON U.S. regulators expect Internet service providers to sue the government over any changes in the way they are regulated and must reevaluate any proposals to make sure they stand up in court, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said at a meeting on Friday.
Last week U.S. President Barack Obama said Internet service providers should be regulated more like public utilities to make sure they grant equal access to all content providers. This touched off intense protests from cable television and telecommunications companies and Republican lawmakers.
"Let's make sure that we understand what is going on here. The big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out," Wheeler said.
"We need to make sure that we have sustainable rules, and that starts with making sure that we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised," he added.
Wheeler did not explicitly address the reclassification of Internet service providers and a spokesman said he is still evaluating multiple options. Experts have said reclassification could be challenging to argue in court. A decision is not expected before 2015.
On Nov. 12, AT&T Inc said it would stop investing in high-speed Internet connections in 100 cities until the Web rules were settled.
Public advocacy groups shrugged off Wheeler's statements.
"Granted everyone would like to see signs one way or the other, but I think that this is mostly the chairman putting up a Washington poker face," said Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a public interest group.
"Chairman Wheeler has learned that on net neutrality he has to tow a very careful line and all of his statements are very carefully neutral," he said.
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by David Gregorio)