FCC Commission approves 'fast lane' rule proposal

The FCC Commission has voted on those net neutrality rules we heard about last month. As Reuters reports, the Commission voted 3-2 in favor of formally proposing the rules and starting to collect "public comment."

Under the new rules, Internet service providers would be allowed to prioritize traffic along so-called "fast lanes." Third-party, bandwidth-intensive services like Netflix would have to pay up to get access to those lanes. However, ISPs wouldn't be allowed to block legal content, and they would be forbidden from acting in a "commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity."

FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler contends that, because of these safeguards, the establishment of fast lanes wouldn't lead to anticompetitive behavior. However, critics argue that the proposed rules would still favor large, established services at the expense of smaller start-ups that might lack the means to pay for fast-lane access. Quoting consumer advocacy groups, the New York Times says the proposal could stifle "the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter."

The FCC has set up an e-mail address for public feedback on this issue: openinternet@fcc.gov. Chairman Wheeler "will be listening," the agency says, "and your comments will help inform the final rules." Currently, Wheeler's plan is for the FCC to wrap up the proceedings and establish "enforceable rules" before the year is out.

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