FCC Approves Chairman Wheeler’s Preliminary Proposal to Change Net Neutrality Rules

Despite being inundated with phone calls, emails, tweets, and posts on social media, the Federal Communications Commission has voted in favor of a preliminary proposal to allow broadband providers to charge content providers like Netflix an extra fee to prioritize traffic – a fast lane. Commissioners voted along party lines, with Republican commissioners voting against the proposal put forth by Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Two fellow Democratic Commissioners voted with Wheeler in a 3 for and 2 against final vote.

The Democratic Commissioners sided with Wheeler in this vote mainly due to the addition of an extended period of public comment following the vote and before the proposal is finalized. The public comment period would seek comment on whether paid prioritization should be completely banned as a practice among broadband providers. Wheeler also added in plans to reclassify Broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Doing this would allow the agency to properly regulate ISPs much like it currently does with phone carriers. ISPs said this week in a letter to the FCC that adding common carrier rules would force them to spend "less on network upgrades and be less innovative."

Prior to voting, Wheeler said the following:

"There is one Internet: Not a fast internet. Not a slow Internet. One Internet. Those who have been expressing themselves will now be able to see what we are actually proposing."

"Nothing in this proposal authorizes paid prioritization despite what has been incorrectly stated today. The potential for there to be some kind of a fast lane available to only a few has many people concerned," Wheeler continued. "Personally, I don't like the idea that the Internet could be divided into haves and have-nots and I will work to see that that does not happen. In this item we have specifically asked whether and how to prevent the kind of paid prioritization that could result in fast lanes."

"We are endeavoring to release the actual Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as soon as possible on the same day [of the vote], but that can be complicated by last-minute edits," an FCC spokesperson told Ars. We'll have more on the proposal after it's available.

Republicans who voted against the proposal and are generally against anything related to Net Neutrality rules said that "unelected officials" should not decide the fate of the Internet. Instead they think that Congress should address these kinds of issues.

We will have more on this story as it develops. If there is one positive to this story, it is that the public and rights groups will have a chance to be heard prior to this proposal being finalized…

If you haven't already, visit the ECA's Action page and send the FCC a letter or email letting them know how you feel about these proposed changes to Net Neutrality rules.

Source: Ars Technica

[Full disclosure: GamePolitics is owned by the ECA.]

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