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FCC chairman will reportedly revise broadband proposal

New broadband rules will include assurances that ISPs will not be able to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Maggie Reardon/CNET

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has revised details of its proposed plan to rewrite Net neutrality to add assurances that Internet service providers will not be able to segregate Internet traffic into fast and slow lanes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to reveal the new proposal as early as Monday, the Journal reported. The rules revision is an apparent attempt to quell concern that broadband providers will be allowed to degrade traffic speeds to some sites while allowing other sites to strike deals that assure preferential delivery of their web content to customers.

While not a dramatic revision of Wheeler's proposal, the new draft is expected to include language that will allow the FCC to ensure that broadband providers don't degrade the traffic of nonpaying customers. The new proposal will also seek comment on whether such "paid prioritization" should be prohibited altogether.

The commission's proposed plan ignited a frenzy of criticism on the Internet last month after being spotlighted in news reports. The reports suggested that the FCC had changed its position on certain aspects of its Open Internet rules, including shifting its stance to allow Internet service providers to charge companies for a faster lane of service.

The redrafting comes just days after the world's top tech heavyweights made a plea to the FCC to lay down the law and safeguard Net neutrality, which traditionally has prohibited blocking access or discriminating against Internet traffic traveling over an ISP's connections. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo, eBay, and dozens of others wrote a letter (PDF) to the FCC on Wednesday asking for a "free and open Internet" and rules that protect users and Internet companies. In all, nearly 150 Internet companies signed the letter.

Over the past few weeks, Wheeler has worked to calm critics of the proposal saying that he is all for an open Internet. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote a blog post in which he pledged to use to prevent ISPs from degrading service for the benefit of a few.

After the letter was released, Democratic FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn both issued statements questioning Wheeler's proposal. Clyburn wrote a blog post that called for a free and open Internet, as well as prohibiting pay-for-priority arrangements, and Rosenworcel issued a statement (PDF) asking the commissioners to "delay our consideration of his rules by a least a month. I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his proposal."

Wheeler's proposal will be voted on by the four other FCC commissioners at the agency's open meeting on Thursday.