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A new net neutrality proposal from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which includes rules that say broadband providers can’t block legal Web traffic, does not destroy open Internet principals and meets the goals of past efforts, the FCC said.

Critics disagree, however, saying that the new proposal, to be released Thursday, would gut net neutrality principles by allowing broadband providers to broker deals with content providers for prioritized service, thereby allowing some traffic management.  But the FCC says that’s not the case and that any proposed rulemaking will ask for public input about whether so-called pay-for-priority traffic agreements between broadband carriers and Web content providers are commercially reasonable.

The new proposal, expected to be voted on at the FCC’s May 15 meeting, will restore net neutrality rules after an appeals court struck down the agency’s old rules in January, FCC officials said.   The proposal includes rules saying broadband providers can’t block legal Web traffic, and broadband providers “may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity,” the FCC said.

In January, an appeals court struck down the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality rules, but the court said the agency could pass new rules using authority from a section of the Telecommunications Act that gives the FCC authority to ensure broadband deployment.

But critics are concerned that the rules would allow for paid prioritization of content, causing some small companies and start-ups to go out of business.  Take, for example, Aereo.  The New York-based startup, which broadcasts TV over the Internet and stores its customers’ TV shows in an online cloud, may be subject to new fees, critics say.  Aereo, and other content companies that operate on the Internet, may be subject to tolls in order to access ISPs’ users over the Internet, critics say.

The FCC denies that claim, and said it will look at traffic management practices on a case-by-case basis.  Officials said they will look hard at pay-for-priority agreements, but stopped short of banning them all saying that some agreements, like prioritization for online heart-monitor services, may be appropriate.


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