Mayors vote against Internet ‘fast lanes’

American mayors voted Monday to keep Internet providers from charging websites for better access to users.

During the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting, the officials approved a resolution calling for robust net neutrality protections in an overwhelming voice vote.

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“All data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment and modes of communication,” the resolution said.

It calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep Internet providers from discriminating against traffic as the agency looks to rewrite its net neutrality rules.

The FCC’s original rules, which were struck down by a federal court in January, kept Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain websites.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed a new set of rules that would reinstate some of the original rules’ protections but could allow for “commercially reasonable” discrimination. 

That proposal is open to public comment for four months, and Wheeler has said he wants to have new net neutrality rules in place by the end of the year.

Critics say Wheeler’s plan could create a tiered Internet where deep-pocketed websites are the only ones who can afford these “fast lanes.”

“Paid prioritization under a commercially reasonable standard allows paid prioritization that has heretofore been understood to be unjust and unreasonable,” the mayors’ resolution said. “Unreasonable paid prioritization is antithetical to a neutral Internet, and nondiscrimination is an inherent and indivisible characteristic of net neutrality.”

Many net neutrality advocates have urged Wheeler to reclassify Internet providers to treat them like the more heavily-regulated phone companies.

Chapel Hill, N.C., Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt noted that the resolution approved Monday does not take a side in the reclassification debate.

“It doesn’t call for reclassification, it also doesn’t not call for reclassification,” he said, adding that mayors worked to craft a compromise on the contentious issue of net neutrality.

“It’s an elegant list of those issues that concern us as mayors as we advocate for 21st century infrastructure” which “will define the quality and success of our cities over the next 100 years,” he said.

Echoing the language of the resolution, Kleinschmidt encouraged his colleagues to talk to members of Congress and the FCC to “insist that our values are advanced.”

“The window for mayoral advocacy is closing,” he said.