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FCC chairman proposes controversial 'Open Internet' rules

FCC chairman proposes controversial 'Open Internet' rules

April 24, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

The Wall Street Journal reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing a new set of FCC guidelines that would bar internet service providers from restricting their customers' access to certain websites or services, but at the same time allow those providers to cut deals with companies willing to pay for faster delivery of their content.

Wheeler is expected to propose the rules to his four fellow commissioners today. If the commission votes to approve them during its May 15th meeting, the guidelines will be finalized and opened up for public comment.

Many have expressed concerns about Wheeler's allowance for "pay-to-play" deals wherein companies like Netflix or EA might pay an ISP like Time Warner Cable to boost the speed with which its customers can stream and download data from their services.

An FCC official confirmed to Ars Technica that this understanding was accurate, but that under Wheeler's proposed guidelines broadband providers would be required to provide a "baseline level of service."

Wheeler responded to public criticism of his proposal in an FCC Blog post published earlier today which -- among other things -- highlights the FCC's power to put a stop to conduct it finds "commercially unreasonable."

"The allegation that [this proposal] will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is unfounded," wrote Wheeler. "That is exactly what the 'commercially unreasonable' test will protect against: harm to competition and consumers stemming from abusive market activity."

Defining what "commercially unreasonable" ISP deals are and what an appropriate baseline for service is are among the tasks that the FCC will seek public comment on if Wheeler's guidelines are approved.

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