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FCC's new net neutrality proposal: What do we really know?

Grant Gross | April 29, 2014
When the U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced its proposal to reinstate new net neutrality regulations that would allow broadband providers to engage in commercially reasonable traffic management, the agency set off a firestorm of protest from digital rights groups, Internet commentators and bloggers.

A New York Times editorial on Thursday ripped into the not-yet-released proposal.

"Dividing traffic on the Internet into fast and slow lanes is exactly what the Federal Communications Commission would do with its proposed regulations," the Times editorial board wrote. "[Wheeler] "is proposing that broadband providers — phone and cable companies — be allowed to charge fees for faster delivery of video and other data to consumers."

The Motley Fool was even more breathless. "In a drastic reversal of position, the FCC will support the rights of ISPs to regulate the speeds with which consumers access different materials on the web, a huge boon for companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon," said the article on "The FCC's rejection of Net neutrality will speed along the death of the Internet as we know it." said: Broadband providers will be able to "create tiered Internet packages that force consumers to pay more for the service they already have. ISPs will also be able to force companies and services — everything from Netflix to home automation companies like Nest to anything else that runs on the web — to pay speed tolls to ISPs in order to maintain the reliability of their website or service."

Never mind the fact that broadband providers already sell tiered packages based on speed. And it's unclear how the FCC will define what's a commercially reasonable traffic management practice, but agency officials have said that they will not allow broadband providers to extract speed tolls from "anything" that runs on the Web.

In addition, critics of the new proposal launched a petition, calling for "nothing less than complete neutrality in our communication channels," at the's We the People site. More than 29,000 people had signed the petition as of Monday morning

"This is not a request, but a demand by the citizens of this nation," the petition says. "No bandwidth modifications of information based on content or its source."

So what do we really know about Wheeler's proposal?

What will happen at the FCC meeting on May 15?

 The FCC is scheduled to vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, addressing the new net neutrality plan. In an NPRM, the commission releases a set of proposals and asks for public comment on them. It's the first step in a long process for the FCC to pass new regulations.

Because of the controversy over the proposal, the FCC has already begun taking email comments at

What's the timeline for FCC action on net neutrality?

Wheeler has said he wants to pass new net neutrality rules by the end of the year, which would be a speedy process by FCC standards. Wheeler wants to move quickly, he said, because there have been no net neutrality rules in place since the appeals court threw them out in January.


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