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FCC chairman to rethink controversial net neutrality proposals

Chairman pulls back plan as criticism mounts

Protesters outside FCC headquarters

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now planning to rewrite its controversial rules in regards to net neutrality.

The Commission on Monday confirmed earlier reports from the Wall Street Journal that chairman Tom Wheeler is looking to change the proposed net neutrality policies guiding how firms can negotiate and manage network access.

According to the Journal report, Wheeler is planning to strengthen proposed rules on oversight of network access deals to provide tighter scrutiny when carriers look to strike deals with web service providers on preferred access.

Additionally, the report notes that Wheeler will look to gain further input for the public on the matter and consider calls to put even tighter regulations on how service providers can dole out network access and bandwidth.

Wheeler had originally planned to put the matter before the FCC at a May 15 Commission meeting, though the discussion will likely be pushed back as the commission chair looks to revise his proposal.

The move comes amidst harsh criticism for Wheeler and the FCC over the new Open Internet plan which would allow carriers to make deals with providers.

While telcos and advocates of the plans claim that the proposal will improve network performance for all customers and speed up traffic for high-bandwidth platforms such as streaming video, opponents believe that any rule opening the door to such deals will result in the creation of a multi-tiered internet in which companies who can't pay extra to providers will see their traffic degraded.

Campaigns to preserve net work neutrality have recently turned into all-out protests as advocates have taken to camping out in front of the FCC headquarters to make sure their voices are heard.

Later this week, a planned protest will aim to bring "hundreds of people" to Washington DC ahead of the scheduled 15 May meeting. Organizers have said that a potential delay from Wheeler would not impact the planned demonstration.

Wheeler, for his part, has maintained that any planned deals between providers and carriers will be heavily scrutinized by the FCC for antitrust concerns and that, if service providers are found to be abusing their power by offering preferential treatment, he would invoke the "Title II" provision to reclassify internet service alongside other telecommunications networks subject to stricter regulations. ®

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