New rules for how Internet traffic is governed were officially unveiled and approved for public comment in a hearing by the Federal Communications Commission Thursday, in a mixed vote.
The issue has been lobbied heavily by industry and consumer groups. Public comments on the proposal are due on July 15.
Here’s a quick summary of what’s at stake, from NPR’s Laura Sydell:
“FCC Chairman Wheeler says he is dedicated to making certain everyone’s content gets to consumers without interruption; but an initial version of the proposed rules suggested it might be OK for Internet service providers like Comcast to charge a content producer like CNN extra if it wanted to reach viewers faster.”
In a nod to the intense public interest in the question, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a round of speeches before the vote that even her mother had gotten in touch about it.
“When my mother calls with public policy concerns, I know there’s a problem,” she said.
Clyburn went on to lay out the issue, and to say that American consumers will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
“I support an open Internet, ” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. But I would have done this differently.”
Saying that the Internet is now a powerful force in Americans’ lives, Rosenworcel said the rules change was contemplated without enough input.
Some commissioners, such as Ajit Paik, announced their dissent before the vote, stating, “I respectfully dissent.”
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly sought to eviscerate the rules notice, saying its flaws include a lack of cost-benefit analysis. He said the proposed net neutrality rules would stifle creativity without providing any benefit to consumers.
After O’Rielly spoke, the proceeding was briefly interrupted by a protester who yelled, “I speak on behalf of the Internet generation!”
She continued to speak, calling for a “free and open” Internet, earning applause from some of those in attendance.
Before the vote, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the rules proposal needs to be judged on its contents, not on the rumors that have circulated. He also sought to allay concerns that the new rules would create a “fast lane” and a “slow lane” online.
“Nothing in this proposal authorizes paid prioritization,” Wheeler said, “despite what has been incorrectly stated today.”
Noting that previous efforts to change the Internet’s rules had been blocked in court, Wheeler said that the FCC is moving “to surmount that opposition.”