(Mint Press News) – On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to publish a proposed new set of rules on “net neutrality” and to allow public comments. The proposal, drafted by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, is a response to a January federal appeals court ruling that the FCC did not have a valid basis for discriminating against Internet service providers that want to create preferential treatment deals with application providers — as the Internet is not an utility.
This vote is expected to set off vigorous debate both inside and outside Washington about the nature of the “free” Internet and net neutrality during the build-up to the expected FCC vote on the proposal later this summer.
While the full text of Wheeler’s proposal was not available at the time of writing, the proposed rules change is expected to present two possible options the commission can pursue. (The proposed rules change was revised from the chairman’s original proposal due to outcry from net neutrality advocates and Democrats — including Wheeler’s fellow Democratic FCC commissioners.)
First, the FCC can classify broadband as a telecommunications utility, or a Title II service. In doing this, the FCC would be free to enforce “common carriage” rules, ensuring that all Americans and all services have open and equal access to the utility. Currently, broadband is an “information service,” according to the FCC, which leaves most decisions about bandwidth and access to the ISPs.