February vote planned for new Internet rules

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a new slate of net neutrality rules in February. 

FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler told other members of the commission he would circulate a draft proposal of the rules in February and vote on it later that month, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the news. 

“Yes, I can confirm that Chairman Wheeler intends to circulate an Open Internet order in February,” spokeswoman Kim Hart said.

During a press conference in December, Wheeler repeatedly declined to set a timeline for work on the plan, saying only that he wanted the process to be done “quickly, right [and to be] sustainable.”

Wheeler originally wanted to vote on neutrality by the end of 2014, but delayed action after President Obama called for the commission to take aggressive steps to ensure all Internet traffic is treated equally. 

Obama and Democrats in Congress are calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility, which would allow for stricter regulations but likely lead to a battle in court.

Prominent Republicans in Congress have blasted that proposal, arguing it would stifle innovation and put Internet companies at the mercy of regulators.

It remains unclear what the FCC's new proposal will look like.

The commission released proposed rules earlier this year that did not include reclassification. However, Wheeler has floated a number of other proposals since then, including a hybrid plan that would partially rely on the authority Obama described.

The fight over net neutrality has become a flashpoint for the FCC, which received a record 3.7 million comments on its proposal.

Critics said the FCC’s original plan could allow companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable to create “fast lanes” on the Internet by charging websites like YouTube or Netflix for quicker service.