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FCC votes to allow preferential treatment under new net neutrality rules

At the same time, the FCC also ruled that broadband companies could not slow down or altogether block incoming traffic outright.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

The national debate over net neutrality has taken another turn that could lead to more controversy.

The Federal Communications Commission decided in a 3-2 vote on Thursday morning that it will allow telecommunications and broadband providers to charge content providers for preferential treatment across their respective networks.

This strategy is already being demonstrated by Netflix and Comcast, as one example, although executives at the online streaming giant have publicly complained about having to resort to this practice.

At the same time, the FCC also ruled that broadband companies could not slow down or altogether block incoming traffic outright.

The decision follows an announcement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler a few weeks ago, who wrote with the intention of "setting the record straight" over what has ballooned into a heavily debated topic in the tech world and beyond over the last six months.

Reports started spreading on Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission would be implementing a new commercial angle for net neutrality, and those theories have been confirmed.

In that memo, Wheeler broadly outlined the revisions for net neutrality, scheduled to be enforced by the end of the year.

Internet service providers (ISPs) will need to disclose all "relevant information" and policies for governing networks.

The FCC also stipulated that ISPs cannot "act in a commercially unreasonable manner," meaning ISPs can't block legal content nor can they favor traffic from one entity over another.

To recall, Verizon Wireless won a court challenge to net neutrality rules, leading the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to send the rules back to the FCC in January.

This sparked a debate about the future of the Internet as the move essentially meant broadband companies would be able to charge tech companies, such as Netflix or Hulu, more money for fast connections needed to deliver their services.

It was then left up to the FCC to rewrite the rules. In February, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal he asserted will preserve the Internet as "an open platform for innovation and expression."

Fears mounted that changes to net neutrality would result in Internet censorship, routine network throttling upon certain users and services, the shifting of heavy fees from ISPs and placing the burden on consumers, or all the above.

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