By Kate Tummarello - 05/12/14 08:09 AM EDT
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is softening his proposal to allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users.
As the agency prepares to vote on Wheeler’s plan Thursday, the chairman is revising his proposal in response to backlash, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Critics slammed Wheeler, saying his proposal defies the goals of the original net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain websites. A federal court struck down those rules in January.
Wheeler’s office has spent the time since his announcement reassuring critics that the agency wouldn’t let any of these “fast lane” agreements between Internet providers and websites harm consumers and competition.
Additionally, Wheeler has said the new rules would not allow Internet providers to slow down the rest of their traffic to force companies to pay for “fast lane” access.
Democrats at the agency and on Capitol Hill, tech companies and public interest groups have protested the plan, warning that it could lead to a tiered Internet where deep-pocketed websites can afford the “fast lanes” that allow them to flourish.
According to The Wall Street Journal the report, Wheeler’s new proposal would do more to explicitly ban the potential practices that concern critics.
Citing an agency official, the report said Wheeler’s new plan “will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don't unfairly put nonpaying companies' content at a disadvantage.”
While Wheeler always said he would leave open the option of reclassifying Internet providers, which would allow the agency to more heavily regulate them the way it does traditional telephone companies, the revised proposal seeks comments on multiple ways to use that reclassification authority.
"The new draft clearly reflects the public input the commission has received," an agency official told The Wall Street Journal.
"The draft is explicit that the goal is to find the best approach to ensure the Internet remains open and prevent any practices that threaten it."