Report: FCC's proposed middle ground net neutrality rules come under fire

Perhaps not surprisingly, the FCC's newly proposed net neutrality rules, which will allow content providers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) to pay service providers access to consumers, isn't sitting well with a number of consumer advocates.

According to an initial report by The Wall Street Journal, the proposed rules would prevent service providers from blocking or throttling access to specific websites but allows them to provide preferential treatment to some traffic.

However, the agency said that the arrangements had to be based on what it says are "commercially reasonable" terms for all parties involved. One of the potential problems, say open Internet advocates, is that by providing preferential treatment for some content companies, it could create an unfavorable environment for others.

In February, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he would propose new rules after a federal court ruled against its earlier net neutrality plan.

An unnamed FCC official said in a Washington Post article that the proposal would require broadband providers to offer "a baseline level of service to their subscribers" but would also allow them to enter individual negotiations with content providers … in a commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis."

Meanwhile, Wheeler's proposal is not sitting well with consumer advocacy groups who say the proposal is a step backwards.

"We are dismayed to hear reports from multiple sources that the FCC is considering rules that would allow Internet service providers to extract additional fees from content companies for prioritized access to their subscribers," said Sarah Morris, senior policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute at New America, in a statement.

"Not only is this simply another way for ISPs to charge additional fees for a service that they are already getting paid to deliver, it also allows those companies to take advantage of their positions as gatekeepers to pick winners and losers online," Morris said. "The beauty of the Internet has always been its ability to serve as an unrestricted platform for all speech, giving users the ability to access the content that they choose without ISP-selected 'fast lanes' and 'slow lanes'."

Wheeler maintains that "reports that the FCC is gutting the open Internet rule … are flat out wrong. There is no 'turnaround' in policy."

For more:
- The Wall Street Journal has this article
The Washington Post has this story

Related articles:
FCC to rework existing net neutrality rules, won't appeal Verizon ruling
FCC loses neutrality battle as court strikes down rules
Federal appeals court strikes down FCC's net neutrality rules
AT&T: 'Sponsored Data' toll-free data plans don't clash with net neutrality rules