FCC Set To Back Internet Traffic Rules

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to pass proposed "net neutrality" rules Tuesday. Critics say the FCC's proposal is "a solution in search of a problem." Public interest groups say new rules are necessary to prevent Internet providers from interfering with web traffic.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Regulators at the Federal Communications Commission are preparing to pass new rules governing Internet traffic. They are called network neutrality rules and they are aimed at stopping Internet providers from interfering with online services. Regulators have been struggling to satisfy industry and consumer groups. The final result may not please either, as NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Chairman Julius Genachowski has been trying to get the other two Democrats on the commission to endorse his proposal. At the 11th hour Monday, they indicated they would go along, though not enthusiastically. The final rule, which will be made public at today's meeting, would bar companies from blocking any specific Internet service, like an online movie company. But Internet providers would be allowed to sell faster service to companies that want it. That's something that consumer groups and other online companies have opposed.

Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University, says even though the rule gives providers lots of leeway, a court challenge from industry is almost certain.

Professor BARBARA VAN SCHEWICK (Law, Stanford University): Nobody believes that the moment the FCC starts enforcing this order then the providers will sit back and watch the FCC enforce it.

ABRAMSON: van Schewick had asked the FCC for strong network neutrality protections, but she views this as a step forward. Other consumer groups are already attacking the rule as fake net neutrality. With many in Congress opposed to any regulation of the Internet, the rule may have few friends and lots of enemies.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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