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Net Neutrality Up For A Key Vote Today By FCC Board

At the start of a meeting to decide the issue of net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, center, holds hands with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, left, and Jessica Rosenworcel at the FCC headquarters Thursday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images
At the start of a meeting to decide the issue of net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, center, holds hands with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, left, and Jessica Rosenworcel at the FCC headquarters Thursday.

An essential question will be decided today about how the Internet works: Should service providers be a neutral gateway or should they handle different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and with different costs?

The five-member Federal Communications Commission will vote on the policy known as net neutrality at its Thursday meeting, which began at 10:30 a.m. ET. We'll update this post with news from the vote.

The new policy would replace a prior version that was adopted back in 2010 — but was put on hold by a legal challenge by Verizon. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit eventually ruled that the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband.

After that 2014 ruling, the FCC was left to reclassify broadband in a way to gain broader regulatory powers.

Update at 12:01 a.m. ET: A Dissenting Vote

Saying the FCC was seizing power in "a radical departure" from its earlier policies. Commissioner Ajut Pai, a Republican, spoke against the proposal. He accused the FCC of "turning its back on Internet freedom."

Pai said that the commissioners were backing the new measure for only one reason: "because President Obama told us to."

Seeing the new policy as an attempt to intrude on the Internet, Pai predicted higher costs for consumers and less innovation by businesses.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: 'Open Internet' Portion Has Begun

After dealing with another issue (of municipalities being able to control broadband service), the FCC has turned to the new proposal.

The proposal was introduced at today's meeting by Julie Veach, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, who said it "would set forth clear, sustainable, enforceable rules to preserve and protect the open Internet as a place for innovation and free expression."

She said the order "builds on the views of some 4 million Americans" who responded to a request for comments.

Guest speakers included Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson and writer and TV producer Veena Sud, whose show The Killing survived with the help of Netflix. A short video from Tim Berners-Lee was also shown.

Our original post continues:

Precise terms and details of the policy have not been made publicly available — a situation that prompted two Republican FCC commissioners to seek to postpone today's vote. That request was denied.

Summarizing "What You Need To Know" about today's vote, Eyder wrote for the Two-Way, "Without net neutrality rules, ISPs could theoretically take money from companies like Netflix or Amazon to speed up traffic to their sites."

Thursday's vote comes after Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Ajut Pai asked that the FCC "immediately release the 332-page Internet regulation plan publicly and allow the American people a reasonable period of not less than 30 days to carefully study it."

That request was denied; we'll post the document here when it's available.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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