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FCC Chairman clarifies 'Net Neutrality' view after backlash

Chairman Tom Wheeler says there has been misinformation about the FCC's proposed plan and insists his intent is to continue protecting the consumer.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Maggie Reardon/CNET

The Federal Communications Commission attempted to put out some fires on Thursday after details of its proposed plan for an open Internet leaked yesterday, eliciting wide-ranging critical reaction from consumer advocacy groups.

In a blog post titled "Setting the record straight on the FCC's Open Internet rules," Chairman Tom Wheeler said he wanted to clarify the "great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced," a reference to various reports regarding the commission's plans to allow Internet service providers to charge companies for a faster lane of service.

The notion of preferred access flies in the face of advocates of Net Neutrality, who argue that all access to the Internet should be equal. As a result, groups such as Free Press have called the proposal an end to Net Neutrality.

Hoping to assuage some of these concerns, Wheeler stressed that his proposal would guard against anything harmful to consumers. The plan will require Internet service providers to disclose to their subscribers all relevant information on how they govern their networks, forbid them from blocking content, and restrict them from acting in a "commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet."

Wheeler argues that he is aligning the FCC view on Open Internet more with the Court of Appeals ruling in January, which made it clear that the FCC could stop anything deemed "commercially unreasonable." He said the FCC will propose rules to establish a high bar for what is "commercially reasonable."

"The allegation that it will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is also unfounded," he said in his post.

The FCC will circulate a draft of the proposed Open Internet policy today. Check back in with CNET for all of the details.