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Report: US FCC to allow payments for speedier traffic

The agency's proposal would allow paid preferential treatment for some traffic based on commercially reasonable terms

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will propose new net neutrality rules Thursday that will allow broadband providers to charge companies like Netflix for preferential traffic management, according to a news report.

The FCC's proposal would prohibit broadband providers from slowing down or blocking traffic to specific websites, but allow them to give some traffic preferential treatment based on commercially reasonable terms, according to a Wall Street Journal story, citing an anonymous source. The FCC would determine what's commercially reasonably on a case-by-case basis, the story said.

The FCC didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Netflix, which has called for strong net neutrality rules, entered into a commercial peering arrangement with Comcast, the largest U.S. broadband provider, in February. The deal gives Comcast subscribers faster access to Netflix videos.

Still, Netflix, in a blog post last month, called on the FCC to pass strong net neutrality rules to prevent large broadband providers from asking for increasingly higher fees to deliver traffic.

"Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs [Internet service providers] can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote. "The big ISPs can make these demands -- driving up costs and prices for everyone else -- because of their market position."

The FCC is taking a new stab at net neutrality rules after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the agency's net neutrality regulations in January. The appeals court said the FCC couldn't enforce the rules because of the agency's own classification of broadband as an information service, not a telephone-style, common-carrier service.

The court, however, pointed the agency to a section of the Telecommunications Act that gives the agency broad authority to ensure broadband deployment. That section of telecom law, the court said, could be used as authority to pass net neutrality rules.

Immediately after the court's decision, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he planned to push for new net neutrality rules.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.



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