Internet use in Colorado and across the nation soon may be regulated as a utility.

Internet use in Colorado and across the nation soon may be regulated as a utility.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he will seek to have the Internet classified under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Whitney Kimball Coe, a program associate for the Center for Rural Strategies, said regulation should help ensure that the Internet remains a level playing field.

"The ability to maintain and to have access to places where you can contribute knowledge, and also gain knowledge - that just seems to be a basic human right at this point," she said.

Under the proposed FCC regulations, broadband providers couldn't block or limit access to legal online content, applications or services. They also wouldn't be allowed to favor some Internet traffic over others - in other words, no "fast lanes."

Katie Dahl, associate director of Colorado Common Cause, predicted that regulating the Internet as a utility would close what is sometimes called the "digital divide" between urban and rural communities. She said that would be good for small businesses that make up Colorado's rural economy.

"So, as people in rural Colorado get connected to the Internet, they have the same kind of access to consumers that the larger companies do," she said.

Opponents argue that the proposal is overreaching and would stifle investment and customer choice.

The five-member commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules Feb. 26.

The FCC proposal is online at fcc.gov.