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KPBS Midday Edition

The Arguments For and Against Net Neutrality

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The Arguments For and Against Net Neutrality
The Arguments For and Against Net Neutrality
The Arguments For and Against Net Neutrality GUESTS:Art Neill, executive director, New Media Rights at California Western School of Law Erik Anderson, reporter, KPBS

THE TOP TORY ON MIDDAY EDITION IS ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY. THE SUBJECT PEOPLE EITHER CARE ABOUT VERY DEEPLY OR DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT. YESTERDAY THE TERM WAS IN THE HEADLINE BECAUSE THE HEAD OF THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION IS PROPOSING TOUGH NEW RULES TO SUPPORT NET NEUTRALITY. IT'S A POSITION PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ENDORSED IN A SPEECH LAST FALL. THEY SHOULD MAKE IT CLEAR THAT WHETHER YOU USE A COMPUTER, PHONE OR TABLET, INTERNET PROVIDERS HAVE A LEGAL OBLIGATION NOT TO BLOCK OR LIMIT YOUR ACCESS TO A WEBSITE. CABLE COMPANIES CAN'T DECIDE WHICH ONLINE STORES YOU CAN SHOP AT. OR, WHICH STREAMING SERVICES YOU CAN USE AND THEY CAN'T LET ANY COMPANY PAY FOR PRIORITY OVER ITS COMPETITORS. TO PUT THESE PROTECTIONS IN PLACE I ASKED THE FCC TO RECLASSIFY INTERNET SERVICE UNDER TITLE II OF A LAW KNOWN AS THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT. IN PLAIN ENGLISH I'M ASKING THEM TO RECOGNIZE THAT FOR MOST AMERICAN, THE INTERNET HAS BECOME AN ESSENTIAL PART OF EVERYDAY COMMUNICATION AND EVERYDAY LIFE. JOINING ME OR ARE NEIL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW MEDIA RIGHTS, AND INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED PROGRAM OF CALIFORNIA WESTERN SCHOOL OF LAW. ART, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM. THANKS FOR HAVING ME. KPBS REPORTER ERIC ANDERSON. NOW, ART, NET NEUTRALITY REALLY ISN'T A HARD CONCEPT BUT THE NAME IS JARGON AND PUTS PEOPLE OFF. OF THE COMBINATION OF INTERNET AND NEUTRALITY. WE KNOW WHAT THE INTERNET IS. WHAT DOES NEUTRALITY MEAN IN THIS CONTEXT? IT REALLY MEANS CONTAINING ALL THOSE THINGS THAT WE REALLY LIKE ABOUT THE INTERNET. THE FACT THAT WE CAN CONNECT TO THE APPLICATIONS AND THE SERVICES OF OUR CHOICE. THE FACT THAT WE CAN INNOVATE AND THERE'S A LOT OF INNOVATORS IN SAN DIEGO THAT RELY ON AN OPEN, ACCEPTABLE INTERBEDDED -- INTO THE PRODUCT TO THE WORLD. NET NEUTRALITY IS ABOUT MAINTAINING THOSE GOOD THINGS THAT THE INTERNET HAS BEEN BUILT ON AND THAT SOME OF THE LARGE SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES AND SOME OF THE OTHER VOICES THAT HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THE CONVERSATION THROUGH THE INTERNET, THOSE FOLKS ARE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE WHAT THEY BEEN DOING AND THAT WE REALLY AREN'T GOING TO THE A CABLE STATION OF THE INTERNET. EXPLAIN WHAT SUPPORTERS OF NET NEUTRALITY WERE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT WAS HAPPENING TO THE INTERNET. WHAT WAS A THREAT TO MAINTAINING THIS FREEDOM THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT? WELL, IN THE IMMEDIATE PAST, JUST ABOUT A YEAR AGO, WE WERE AT SUCH A DIFFERENT POINT IN THE CONVERSATION. THE F AC HAS LOST ITS MAJOR BATTLES TO PROTECT THE RULES THAT IT PASSED ORIGINALLY IN 2010. SO, IN A CASE CALLED VERIZON VERSUS FCC, THE TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES THAT BASICALLY ERASE ANY NET NEUTRALITY AUTHORITY AND THE AUTHORITY OF THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION TO ACTUALLY READ -- REGULATE OUR MODERN SYSTEM OF COMMUNICATION. AT THE BEGINNING OF LAST YEAR, RIGHT AROUND THIS TIME, A LOT OF ADVOCATE, A LOT OF INTERNET USERS WERE CONCERNED THAT IT OPEN THE DOOR TO A VARIETY OF ALTERATIONS TO THE INTERNET AS WE KNOW IT. THAT COULD BE VERY BLATANT AS THE PRESIDENT TALKED ABOUT IN THE QUOTE THAT YOU SHARED SUCH AS BLOCKING ACCESS TO A PARTICULAR SERVICE. IT COULD ALSO BE SOMETHING MORE SUBTLE, SERVICES ARE DEGRADED OR THEY ARE JUST -- THERE ARE CERTAIN WAYS THAT THE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS THAT WE USE EVERY DAY, THE MOBILE SIDE, AT&T VERIZON, T-MOBILE, PRINT AND ON THE CABLE SIDE, THE COMCAST SEMI CALL COX PRIME CAST, TIME WARNER, THEY COULD USE GATEKEEPER POWER TO FORCE US TO CHOOSE CERTAIN SERVICES APPLICATIONS. WHITNEY GET DOWN TO CRACK TAX. A LOT OF THE DEBATE WAS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS WERE GOING TO BE ABLE TO CHARGE COMPANIES TO STREAM THEIR CONTENT IF THEY WANTED IT TO GO FASTER, THEY WOULD CHARGE THEM AND THEIR DOWNLOAD CONTENT WOULD ACTUALLY BE STREAM FASTER. IS THAT RIGHT? SURE. WITH THE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS THAT WAS LOOK, WE WANT TO CREATE A WAY FOR THESE BUSINESSES, THESE COMPANIES THAT HAVE BUILT A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS ON THE INTERNET THAT RELIES ON THE INTERNET, PASSAGE OF INFORMATION, TO ENSURE THAT THEIR BUSINESS MODEL IS GOING TO WORK. WHAT WE CAN DO IS CREATE THESE FAST LANES ON THE INTERNET WHERE A COMPANY LIKE NETFLIX, FOR EXAMPLE COULD SAY -- I'D LIKE TO PAY AN INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER LIKE COMCAST $150 MILLION OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT TWO YEARS AND THEY WILL ENSURE ME THAT MY STREAMING CONTENT WILL GET TO THE CUSTOMER FASTER THAN ORDINARY CONTENT. WHAT THAT MEANS, THERE ARE FEWER INTERRUPTIONS TO THE CUSTOMER. THERE ARE FEWER BUFFERING -- YOU GET A HIGH QUALITY PICTURE, POTENTIALLY. SO, THAT WAS APPEALING TO COMPANIES LIKE NETFLIX BACK NOT PAYING THAT EXTRA MONEY. TO IMPROVE THEIR PRODUCT OR KEEP QUALITY OF PRODUCT TIME TO THE CUSTOMERS. ART, THE ARGUMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT NET NEUTRALITY IS THAT IT SORT OF CRAMS OUT INNOVATION. IT CRAMS OUT STARTUP COMPANIES, PEOPLE WHO CAN'T PAY A PRICE TO INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS FOR FASTER STREAMING. IT'S INTERESTING. THE BACKGROUND TO THE NETFLIX STORY REALLY HELP TO SORT OUT THE SITUATION. THE BACKGROUND TO THAT STORY IS THAT BEFORE NETFLIX PAGE TO ACTUALLY GET ACCESS TO COMCAST NETWORK AND GET WHAT IS CALLED INTERNET CONNECTION, THEY HAD DEGRADED. BY ALL ACCOUNTS IT LOOKED LIKE -- THE USERS ON COMCAST SERVICE WHERE HAVING AN AWFUL TIME ACCESSING. TO BE A VIABLE SERVICE, AND TO COMPETE WITH SAY COMCAST STREAMING SERVICES -- NETFLIX WAS BASICALLY FORCED TO PAY COMCAST IN ADDITION TO THE FACT THAT NETFLIX WAS FORCED BY COMCAST, THE USE OF THEIR GATEKEEPER POWER. THE OTHER ISSUE IS, WHAT ABOUT THE NEXT NETFLIX? THE NEXT GOOGLE? THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. THE PEOPLE WHO, RIGHT NOW, CAN'T PAY TO HAVE FASTER STREAMING. LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT EXACTLY THE FCC CHAIRMAN PROPOSED YESTERDAY. REGULATING INTERNET SERVICE LIKE A PUBLIC UTILITY. EXCEPT FOR REGULATING THE RATE THAT CABLE COMPANIES CHARGE. WHAT WOULD MOVING THE INTERNET TO THE DATA FROM A PUBLIC UTILITY MEAN, ARE? IT'S A BIT OF A MISNOMER. PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT UTILITY REGULATION IN THE ENERGY SPACE AND IN THE CLASSIC LANDLINE TELEPHONE-BASED THAT IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT EVEN THOUGH THERE IS SOME ELEMENTS OF PUBLIC UTILITY REGULATION, THE IMPORTANT THING ARE NOT INCLUDED. RATE REGULATION IS NOT INCLUDED. CERTAIN BUILDOUT REQUIREMENTS. THEY'RE IS MUCH CLOSER REGULATION PUT ON FOLKS LIKE THE ENERGY INDUSTRY IN THE TELECOM INDUSTRY SO ACTUALLY AS I MENTIONED, ALL IT IS IS A SET OF PRESCRIPTIVE RULES THAT SAY TO INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS, THESE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING. IT'S REALLY GOING TO BE UP TO THE FCC THE EVEN IF THEY PASS THESE RULES ON THE 26TH, IT'S STILL UP TO THE FCC, THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION TO ACTUALLY ENFORCE THE RULE. THAT WAS GOING TO BE INTERESTING HERE. THE RULES REALLY SAY, THE THREE MAIN THINGS ARE -- INTERNET SERVICE SERVICE PROVIDERS, YOUR CELL PHONE COMPANY, YOUR CABLE NET -- YOUR CABLE AND INTERNET PROVIDER, YOU CAN'T BLOCK ACCESS TO OTHERWISE LAWFUL CONTENT. THAT MEANS YOU CAN USE THE SERVICES YOU WANT TO USE. IT ALSO SAYS THAT SIMILARLY TO NOT BLOCKING INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS CAN'T THROTTLE TRAFFIC. THEY DON'T NECESSARILY BLOCK THE SERVICE OR THE APPLICATION, BUT THEY DEGRADE THE SERVICE. SLOW IT DOWN. SO YOU CAN USE IT. THE THIRD, REALLY IMPORTANT, THE THING THAT TALKED ABOUT AND THAT ERIC MENTIONED WITH FAST LANE AND SLOW LANES -- REALLY, IT'S AT THAT PAID PRIORITIZATION IS NOT GOING TO BE OKAY. THAT WAS A REALLY STRONG STATEMENT, AS WELL. THERE ARE SOME REALLY INTERESTING STATEMENT THAT THE CHAIRMAN MADE. WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR THE EXACT LANGUAGE OF THE RULES, BUT IT DOES LOOK AS IF THESE RULES -- UNLIKE THE 2010 RULES -- EXTEND TO WIRELESS INTERNET AND THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT. 55% PLUS OF INTERNET TRAFFIC GOES THROUGH MOBILE DEVICES NOW WHEN THERE'S NO REASON THAT MOBILE DEVICES SHOULDN'T BE TREATED THE SAME AS THE REST OF THE INTERNET. ONE THING TO ADD. IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THESE RULES -- THE FCC TRIED TO DO THIS BEFORE UNDER THE CLASS ONE OVERSIGHT POWERS THAT THEY HAD. THEY TRIED TO ENSURE NET NEUTRALITY NEUTRALITY. THAT WAS CHALLENGED IN COURT BY THE TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES AND THE COURT OVERTURNED THEIR ABILITY TO DO THAT. IT'S SOMETHING THE FCC IS RECOGNIZING FOR SOME TIME AND THIS WOULD BE A NEW AVENUE, A NEW WAY FOR THEM TO DO IT. THEY HAVE A MUCH BIGGER STICK I GUESS IS THE WAY TO LOOK AT A. THAT'S A GREAT POINT. A MUCH BETTER LEGAL FOUNDATION TO ENFORCE THESE RULES AND IT'S FRANKLY -- REGARDLESS OF WHAT SIDE YOU ARE ON, THIS IS ACTUALLY A MORE ELEGANT AND EFFICIENT WAY TO DEAL WITH -- WITH THIS A WE WOULD HAVE SPENT ANOTHER TENURES HAVING REPEAT CASES ABOUT WEATHER THE ACTIVE THE THAT EVEN REGULATE FOR TALKING ABOUT WHAT'S APPROPRIATE FOR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS TO DO OR NOT TO. THAT WE STOP YOU'VE YOUR. IN A CONVERSATION THAT BEEN GOOD INFORMATION TALKED ABOUT. AND DON'T NOT CERTAIN THAT PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS TO THEM. CAN EITHER OF YOU TELL US WHAT ENSURING NET NEUTRALITY MEANS TO SOMEONE WHO JUST WANTS TO TURN ON THEIR INTERNET AND GET THEIR CONNECTION? YOU COULD LOOK AT A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT WAYS. WHAT IT MEANS, IS WHEN YOU TURN ON THE INTERNET, YOUR COMPUTER AND ACCESS THE INTERNET THROUGH YOUR MOBILE PHONE, IF YOU WANT TO GO TO US RIGHT, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET THERE. IF YOU WANT TO ACCESS STREAMING CONTENT FROM A PROVIDER, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET THAT STREAMING WITHIN THE TECHNICAL BOUNDS OF YOUR DEVICE IN YOUR LOCATION, ETC. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET THAT CONTENT WITHOUT SOMEONE DETERMINING AHEAD OF TIME THAT EITHER THE CONTENT SHOULD BE SLOWER OR FASTER, BECAUSE OF THE PAID AGREEMENT OR LIMITED OR COMPLETELY BLOCKED, EVEN. BASICALLY, IT ALLOWS YOU TO HAVE THE ACCESS THAT YOU HAD WHEN THE INTERNET WAS CREATED. BASICALLY, WHAT SOME OF THE INTERNET PROVIDERS WERE PROPOSING IS IN A SENSE, THEY WANTED TO ORCHESTRATE THE INTERNET. FOR YOUR GOOD. THE LOGIC WAS THEY WERE DOING IT FOR YOUR GOOD. THERE ARE BAD THINGS ON THE INTERNET. WANTED TO MAKE SURE THEY COULD ELIMINATE ILLEGAL FILESHARING IF IT WAS COMING UP YOUR NETWORK. ONE OF THE THINGS THEY ASK FOR WHAT THE ABILITY TO OVERSEE THAT AND MAKE SURE THAT BAD THING DOESN'T HAPPEN. IT WAS A JUSTIFICATION THAT THE USED FOR OPPOSING THE NET NEUTRALITY. THE CONTACTED TO CABLE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS IN SAN DIEGO. COXSWAIN TIME WARNER TO JOIN US. THEY DECLINED BUT SENT STATEMENT WHICH YOU CAN READ ON OUR WEBSITE AT KPBS.ORG. THE GOVERNMENT -- I GUESS ANOTHER CRITICISM, SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BECOME INVOLVED IN KEEPING THE INTERNET OPEN? THAT'S ANOTHER CRITICISM THAT WAS USED AGAINST NET NEUTRALITY. WHAT DO OPPONENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT? CLEARLY, THE PEOPLE WHO ARE AGAINST THIS IDEA OF REGULATED, HARDWIRED NET NEUTRALITY SAY SIMPLY THAT IT'S A SITUATION THAT REQUIRES A LIGHTER TOUCH, A LIGHTER REGULATORY TOUCH. THINGS WORK OKAY, THINGS ARE WORKING OUT AND THEY ARE WORKING IN YOUR BEST INTEREST. THAT'S THE ARGUMENT LAID OUT THERE. THERE ARE PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE THAT THEY, YOU KNOW, MAYBE THAT'S NOT THE BEST CASE IN ALL SITUATIONS AND WE NEED THIS REGULATION TO BALANCE THE SCALES, AT LEAST TO HAVE -- YOU KNOW -- MAKING NET NEUTRALITY UNDER THE PURVIEW OF THE SEC -- FCC, MAKING THE INTERNET A TITLE TO CLASSIFICATION AGE OF THE. IT DOESN'T CREATE RULES IMMEDIATELY, IT'S IS GIVE THE FCC THE STRUCTURE TO ENFORCE. IF THIS IS APPROVED BY THE END OF THE MONTH THEY COULD DECIDE AT THE END OF THE TIME THAT THIS LIGHTER HAND IS OKAY AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING AND WE WILL LET THE INTERNETWORK IT SELF OUT. THAT'S GOING TO BE OKAY. OR, THEY COULD SAY WE THINK THEY'RE MAYBE AN ISSUE THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED WITH THE REGULATION. IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR THEM TO ACT IN ANY PARTICULAR DIRECTION. IT TOOK GIVE THEM THE AUTHORITY TO DO SO. THE FCC CHAIR, TOM WHEELER, USED TO BE HEAD OF THE NATIONAL CABLE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS LOBBYING FIRM, WHICH OF COURSE, AS WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, OPPOSES THE KIND OF PROPOSED REGULATION. I KNOW YOU BEEN FOLLOWING THIS DEBATE FOR SOME TIME. THIS IS SURPRISING THAT HE'S COME OUT AS A STAUNCH SUPPORTER OF NET NEUTRALITY? IT IS. I WANT TO ADDRESS REALLY QUICKLY ONE THING ERIC MENTIONED ABOUT ILLEGAL FILESHARING. THE ISPS, NET NEUTRALITY DEALS WITH YOUR ABILITY TO ACCESS LAWFUL CONTENT AND THEY'VE ALWAYS HAD THE RIGHT UNDER THE LAW, PARTICULARLY UNDER COPYRIGHT LAW. THE NET NEUTRALITY DOESN'T AFFECT THEIR ABILITY TO STOP ILLEGAL IT ACTIVITY OR DEAL WITH IT. ILLEGAL ACTIVITY GOING ON ON THE NETWORK. I WANTED TO ADDRESS IT. IN TERMS OF TOM WHEELER'S CHANGE OF HEART, THIS SUMMER, HE PROPOSED MUCH WEAKER RULES THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED PAID PRIORITIZATION AND REALLY WOULD HAVE CHANGED THE INTERNET THAT WE KNOW. THAT WE CARE ABOUT. WHAT HAPPENED, I THINK, WITH THAT LEGALLY IT WAS REALIZED. RELYING ON TITLE I, RELYING ON WHAT'S CALLED SECTION 706 AUTHORITY WAS JUST NOT ENOUGH. THEY NEEDED A REAL LEGAL FOUNDATION AFTER 4 MILLION COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC. IT WAS CLEAR THAT THEY ACTUALLY NEEDED THE AUTHORITY TO ACT. TO GO. TO THE QUESTION ABOUT HOW THIS AFFECTS -- IN EVERY DAY -- AND EVERY DAY INTERNET USER, IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU BEING ABLE TO ACCESS THAT CONTENT THAT YOU WANT TO ACCESS AS YOU WANT TO. IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU ARE USED TO IN TERMS OF A CABLE SYSTEM WHERE YOU HAVE TIERS IN HAVE TO PAY TO HAVE ACCESS TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTENT. THIS REALLY PUTS FOCUS ON A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. NOT FOR THE CONSUMER, THOUGH. THIS REALLY ISN'T -- DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A PARTISAN BATTLE AND DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A SORT OF IDEOLOGICAL THING. FROM AN ECONOMIC STANDPOINT THIS IS ABOUT COMPETITION. IT'S ABOUT ENTREPRENEURS AND STARTUPS BUILDING THE NEXT GREAT INTERNET COMPANY. WHO DO YOU THINK WARS THE HAND OF THE AT THE THE -- FCC, JOHN OLIVER OR PRESIDENT OBAMA? DON OLIVER WITH HIS FAMOUS RANT ON TV. WE HAD THE FAMOUS RANT. IT GOT A LOT OF PUBLIC ATTENTION. THEY'RE WAS A LOT OF PUBLIC ATTENTION FOCUSED TOWARD THE END OF THE SUMMER. PEOPLE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY. BUT, WHEN YOUR BOSS, RESIDENT BARACK OBAMA TELLS YOU THAT YOU WANT NET NEUTRALITY, IT DOESN'T LEAVE YOU A LOT OF OPTIONS IF YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF A FEDERAL AGENT THE WHICH THE FCC IS. IS THE GUY THAT PUT YOU IN THAT CHAIR AND HE SAYS THIS IS WHAT I WANT AND WHY WANTED THIS IS WHY I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT. I DON'T THINK IT'S AS BIG A SURPRISE. IT CAME OUT IN NOVEMBER PUBLICLY. HERE WE ARE NOW IN FEBRUARY WITH THE PUBLIC DECLARATION. IT TOOK HIM A LITTLE WHILE TO WORK OUT WHAT HE WANTED, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S A BIG SURPRISE THAT THAT IS WHERE IT ENDED UP. THE FCC BOARD VOTES ON FEBRUARY 26. WE WILL SEE IF IT PASSES. I'VE BEEN SPEAKING WITH ART NEIL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW MEDIA RIGHT, AND INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED PROGRAM OF CALIFORNIA WESTERN SCHOOL OF LAW AND I'VE BEEN DIGGING WITH KPBS REPORTER ERIC ANDERSON. HANKY BOTH VERY MUCH.

The term "net neutrality" has been making headlines in recent days, but it seems to be a subject people either care about or know nothing about.

Net neutrality refers to keeping the Internet as open and fair as possible. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday proposed new rules that he thinks would ensure net neutrality.

It would regulate Internet services like a public utility and prohibit content providers from paying Internet companies to buy faster lanes.

"It really means maintaining all those things that we really like about the Internet — the fact that we can connect to the applications and the services of our choice, the fact that we can innovate. And there are a lot of innovators here in San Diego that rely on an open accessible Internet to bring their products and services to the world," Art Neill, executive director at New Media Rights at the California Western School of Law, told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday.

Neill said the rules could be approved by the FCC when it goes before the five-member panel on Feb. 26, but the commission will need to ensure it's actually enforced.

"All it is a set of prescriptive rules that says to Internet services providers, 'Hey, these are a couple of things you shouldn't be doing. It's still up to the FCC to actually enforce the rules," he said.

Wheeler's proposal has received support from consumer groups and powerful companies including Netflix and Google.

Opponents of the idea say net neutrality would discourage investment and increase taxes.

San Diego area Internet service providers include Cox Communications, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon. Hank Hultquis, AT&T vice president of federal regulatory, said in a corporate blog that a legal battle will ensue if the rules are adopted.

What Is Net Neutrality?