The FCC voted today to move forward with rules that would let internet service providers charge companies more for faster access to consumers. The Commission passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines, and has now opened up the rules for public comment.

Under the proposed rules, companies like Comcast and Verizon would be able to charge Google, Microsoft and others for the ability to access customers more quickly.

The rules allow for the creation of “fast lanes” where certain content is delivered more quickly than others. In basic terms, that’s in contrast with the principles of Net Neutrality, which would treat all data the same. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated emphatically that he doesn’t intend for these rules to degrade the quality of users’ Internet service.

“There is one Internet,” he said at today’s hearing. “Not a fast Internet, not a slow Internet; one Internet.”

Image by Leonardo Rizzi on Flickr
Image by Leonardo Rizzi on Flickr

To back that up, the proposed rules set out a standard of “commercial reasonableness” to govern broadband companies’ actions. If what they do doesn’t mesh with that standard, Wheeler said, the FCC would take action.

“If a network operator slowed the speed of service below that which the consumer bought, it would be commercially unreasonable and therefore prohibited,” Wheeler said. “If the network operator blocked access to lawful content, it would violate our no-blocking rule and therefore be doubly prohibited.”

The proposed rules call for a “multifaceted dispute resolution process” to deal with companies that don’t comply with those rules. However, it’s not yet clear how that process would work.

All of this had to take place after an appeals court struck down the Commission’s previous Net Neutrality rules, saying that the FCC had overstepped its bounds.

It’s the next step in what is sure to be a long and contentious process: last week, more than 100 tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, sent an open letter to the FCC asking the commission to classify broadband providers as common carriers — required to provide service without discrimination.

Wheeler said that today’s proposal is an invitation for people to debate and discuss what regulatory options are best for Net Neutrality moving forward. While today’s proposed rules wouldn’t reclassify broadband companies as common carriers, the NRPM does ask whether it would be better for the Commission to do so, or continue with regulations as they stand today.

Unsurprisingly, the rules set out today ran afoul of Net Neutrality advocates, who are frustrated with what the Commission put forth.

“The FCC’s proposal still falls well short of real net neutrality rules,” Public Knowledge Vice President Michael Weinberg said in a press release. “It would create a two-tier internet where ‘commercially reasonable’ discrimination is allowed on any connections that exceed an unknown ‘minimum level of access’ defined by the FCC. A two-tier internet is anathema to a truly open internet, and rules under section 706 authority are insufficient to prevent harmful paid prioritization.”

There will now be a 4-month-long public comment period when people can voice their concerns about the rules, and the FCC can amend the proposal.

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  • http://www.MyUnfold.com/ OptimusDiaz

    This is painful.

    • Aerialgreen

      They might just go ahead and say hackers (or hacker groups like Anonymous) “come get us”

  • TwoCentsInThePot

    This is proof that money rules. Government allows the creation of monopolies, the monopolies reap huge profits, money changes hands and the monopolies get what they want to make even more money. Government by the business for the business and about the business.

  • William Moore

    So under this proposal. all they have to do is change the plans to read like channel listings. Meaning they throttle everyone’s internet, then put plans together where you can get faster access to some list of sites. That would be for download. For upload you would they force you to pay much larger amounts or negotiate a “channel” contract.

    Nope no way around their top notch proposal. Remember all these folks have a deep relationship with the backbone providers. Why should the FCC function any different then the rest of our once respected government agencies. No conflicts bringing in people who main income came from and will come from when they leave the very people they are supposed to regulate. Definitely a special system we setup.

  • brianm101

    Totally and utterly wrong. Internet packets cross many networks why should one provider have the right to slow it down if the sender doesn’t pay up – a bit like the highwaymen of old – they got hung if caught, we can only hope!

    • damnitalready

      These pirates own the last mile networks, the ones that directly interface with the end-subscribers/users, and the ones with the most ignorant customers, who will gripe and complain but not risk killing their facespace access in order to vote with their wallet.

      These pirates are not only going after the services (netflix, for example) to double dip, they’re triple dipping by going after the services’ network providers. They want to be paid 3 times to deliver the same bits.

  • joesmitty

    I think it’s time for us to mount a class action here. On the one hand they are charging consumers (us) for a higher data rates and then on the other hand they are throttling *all* the sites that would make use of these data rates. They are essentially trying to charge us *twice* for Internet usage by making Hulu, Netflix, Google, et al collect a second fee for the same bandwidth.
    This behavior lies somewhere on the line between fraud and bad faith.

    • damnitalready

      Don’t forget they’re going after the services’ network providers as well (L3, Cogent, etc) to make them pay up as well. So 3x the $’s for delivering the same bits.

  • ceithor

    So, does this mean I get to sue Time Warner if I’m paying for 30Mps but in reality I’m only getting 5?

    • damnitalready

      No. You gave up your right to sue years ago with mandatory arbitration.

  • BrainiacV

    “in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines” I can take a sarcastic guess on which party voted which way, but I’d rather know the fact.

  • N8ers

    …or they could back off and let the market drive innovation.

  • fatman45

    Once again Big Government is pulling up the ladder for Big Business so that no one can compete with them! This has happened time and time again in industry after industry. This isn’t free market capitalism! It has to stop!

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