The head of the Federal Communications Commission is pledging to apply only narrow regulations to high-speed Internet access to ensure the agency has adequate authority to govern broadband providers without adopting heavy-handed rules.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday that the commission will seek to regulate broadband connections as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.
But it will refrain from imposing other burdensome obligations.
The move comes in response to a court ruling last month that cast doubt on the FCC's authority over broadband.
And it is intended to pave the way for the agency to adopt rules prohibiting phone and cable companies from discriminating against Internet traffic.
Meanwhile, shares in major U.S. cable companies fell Thursday on concerns that the government wants to assert more control over broadband policy.
Shares of the No. 1 U.S. cable company Comcast fell as much as 4 percent, while shares of No. 2 operator Time Warner Cable shares dropped by as much as 6 percent in early trading. Cablevision Systems shares fell as much as 5 percent.
Wall Street analysts and investors worry that Internet providers could be restricted in how they manage their networks, preventing them from making as much return as possible on their investments in building broadband networks.
—Reuters contributed to this report