The Federal Communications Commission advanced a new “net neutrality” proposal Thursday with a 3-2 vote.
The vote moves the proposed rules to a 120-day public comment period, according to the Associated Press.
The newly proposed rules would prevent Internet service providers from deliberately slowing data from content providers like Netflix. It would, however, allow service providers, like Verizon or Comcast, to charge fees to content companies in order to prioritize their traffic.
Opponents argue that customers are already paying high fees for Internet service and there is no need to create an additional revenue stream for the giant service providers. They also believe that creating so-called fast lanes of service for those content providers who can pony up the cash will destroy the neutral environment of the Internet.
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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler disagrees. He is quoted in a story from Reuters as saying that he will use all of his powers to prevent "acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have nots.’"
“We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet,” Wheeler is quoted as saying by the New York Times. “What we’re dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. We are asking for specific comment on different approaches to accomplish the same goal, an open Internet.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit threw out the FCC’s old net neutrality rules in January.
Consumer advocates believe the new rules should reclassify Internet service providers as closely regulated public utilities instead of the less-regulated information services that they are now. That would keep the Internet neutral, they say.
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Republican commissioner Ajit Pai voted against Wheeler’s proposal and disagrees.
“Nobody thinks of plain, old telephone service or utilities as cutting edge, but everyone recognizes that the Internet has boundless potential, and that’s because governments didn’t set the bounds early on,” he said, according to an article from PC World.
Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn expressed some concerns about the proposal but voted for it in order to open it up for public debate.
"The real call to action begins after the vote today," Clyburn said. "You have the ear of the entire FCC. The eyes of the world are on all of us."
The FCC will take public comments until July 15. After that the commission will hold an initial hearing and the public will be given the opportunity to respond to comments made in the hearing until Sept. 10. Wheeler has said he wants new rules in place by the end of the year.