FCC chief forges ahead with ‘fast lanes’ vote

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will hold a vote next week on his proposal to allow Internet “fast lanes,” despite calls to delay it.

Though other commissioners have asked Wheeler to wait, the agency will hold a vote May 15, during its monthly meeting, on Wheeler’s proposal to rewrite the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

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Wheeler’s plans, which would allow Internet providers to charge content companies, like Netflix, more for better access to users, were met with backlash from both sides of the aisle when he announced his proposal last month.

Despite Wheeler’s assurances that his proposal would allow the agency to make sure “fast lane” arrangements don’t harm consumers or competition, critics say his plan defies the goal of the original rules.

Those original rules kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking traffic to certain websites until a federal court struck them down earlier this year.

Since announcing his plans, Wheeler and his agency received a wave of public concern that his proposal threatens the open Internet. 

This week, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called on Wheeler to delay the vote so the commission would have time to work through the public comments. 

Due to the FCC’s transparency rules, the agency must stop accepting public comments on an item one week before that item is set to be discussed at an open meeting.

Commission's Mignon Clyburn also noted the negative public reaction to Wheeler's plans and pledged to keep that reaction in mind heading into next week's vote. Commissioner Ajit Pai also asked Wheeler to delay the vote, citing a need for the group to focus on the upcoming vote on rules for the agency’s 2015 airwave auction, another highly watched item on the agenda.

Wheeler responded to those calls by keeping the vote on his net neutrality proposal on the agenda but allowing additional time for public comment.

According to the agenda released by the FCC, the agency will waive certain parts of its transparency rules and continue to accept public comments through Wednesday.

The agency wrote that it “has determined that strict enforcement of the Sunshine Period prohibition on comment would place an unnecessarily restrictive burden on the public, who should have full opportunity to express their views.”

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