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FCC moves forward on net neutrality plan: What now?

The FCC's chairman says he's looking for more public comment on his proposal

By Grant Gross
May 15, 2014 04:49 PM ET

IDG News Service - So what happens now that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to release a net neutrality proposal and seek public comments?

The FCC vote releases a so-called notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, where the agency proposes new rules and asks for public comment on them. The release of the 99-page NPRM on Thursday sets off a 120-day comment period on the proposed rules, with 60 days for initial comments and 60 days for comments that respond to the first round of discussion.

Here is an FAQ about what happens next in the FCC's net neutrality proceeding:

Who can comment on the proposed rules?

Anyone who has an opinion can comment. While the FCC's proceedings are often heavy with comments from companies and trade groups affected by the proposed action, members of the general public can also comment. In the past month, more than 21,000 comments have been filed on the FCC's net neutrality proceeding.

Asked about the firestorm over his net neutrality proposal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday that he's encouraged by the level of public participation.

"We want this kind of discussion," he said. "We want this kind of debate. It is healthy, it is good, it produces good results."

Where can I comment?

An easy way to comment is to go to the FCC's comment page, which a link to the proposal officially titled, "protecting and promoting the open Internet." Clicking on the proceeding number, 14-28, takes you to a Web form where you can leave a comment.

The FCC's email box for the proceeding is also still working. It's at openinternet@fcc.gov. The FCC's phone number is 1-888-225-5322, although the agency in recent days has encouraged people to send comments electronically instead of calling.

While anonymous comments are allowed on the FCC website, comments may be taken more seriously if you leave your name.

When does the FCC expect to pass new net neutrality rules?

FCC officials have said they hope to have new rules in place by the end of the year. Wheeler said he's pushing for the process to happen quickly because a U.S. appeals court struck down old net neutrality rules in January.

Do the rules proposed by Wheeler allow broadband providers to charge Web services for prioritized traffic?

The proposal seeks comment on whether the FCC should ban pay-for-priority business models. During Thursday's hearing, Wheeler also emphasized that he would consider any broadband provider's efforts to throttle traffic to customers to be an unreasonable and prohibited practice.

"There is one Internet," he said. "It must be fast, it must be robust and it must be open. The speed and quality of the connection a consumer purchases must be unaffected by what content he or she is using."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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