FCC chairman appears poised to push for tougher regulations to protect equal Internet access

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler appears poised to propose new rules that would classify Internet service providers as public utilities in a move designed to ensure everyone has the same access to free content online.

Wheeler strongly indicated he favors the shift to tougher regulations during a Wednesday appearance in Las Vegas at the International CES, a technology industry gadget show.

The remarks suggest that the Federal Communications Commission is falling in line with President Barack Obama, who announced in November that he favors governing Internet service providers like telephone companies to preserve a "free and open" Internet.

Major Internet service providers fiercely oppose the change, arguing it will kill jobs and discourage them from investing in network upgrades.

The FCC plans to vote on the proposal on Feb. 26.