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FCC to lay out new 'Net Neutrality' rules Thursday, says report

A new proposal from the commission could allow companies to pay Internet service providers for faster access to consumers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Maggie Reardon/CNET

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose on Thursday a new set of rules governing Internet access, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The new rules would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or disrupting traffic to specific Web sites, but they would also let companies pay for special access directly to customers, allowing for superior service.

The proposal could irk supporters of Net Neutrality, who believe that all access to the Internet should be equal, and that charging for special access benefits larger companies over smaller ones.

The Journal said the deals would have to be struck on "commercially reasonable" terms for all parties, noting that the terms would be decided by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.

Such a plan would allow media-streaming sites such as Netflix or sports Web site ESPN to pay extra to ensure that their traffic would get to customers in a speedy, unobstructed manner. Any agreement would affect traffic only at the last part of the network, which directly touches the customer. Netflix, for instance, struck a deal with Comcast for better access in the interchange part of the network that isn't affected by Net Neutrality rules.

An FCC spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment.

The FCC was widely expected to propose new rules after a federal appeals court threw out FCC's Open Internet rules in a case filed by Verizon. But in doing so, the court also sided with the FCC in reaffirming its ability to regulate broadband services.

Rather than go through the courts again, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the commission would take a different path toward the open Internet.

The FCC has decided not to reclassify broadband as a public utility, which would enable a new set of more rigorous rules, the Journal said.