FCC votes to move 'Net Neutrality' rules forward - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FCC votes to move 'Net Neutrality' rules forward

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Two major developments Thursday may impact how you use the web.

In the first development, the Federal Communications Commission, which is trying to rewrite the rules for regulating Internet providers, voted 3-2 to publish a proposed new set of "net neutrality" rules on Thursday.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed set of rules around "net neutrality" center on the question of whether Internet providers should have to treat all online traffic equally.

The central question, Wheeler said at the vote on Thursday, "isn't whether the Internet should be open, but how and when we should have rules in place."

The FCC is considering reclassifying Internet as a "telecommunications service." That would put it in a regulatory category similar to utilities like electricity and phone service.

Internet providers would have to offer customers equal access, and they would be subject to more regulation from the FCC. (Since 2002 the FCC has considered broadband Internet an "information service," which limits the commission's ability to regulate and doesn't mandate equal service for all.)

The second is cable and data provider Comcast, who is considering imposing monthly usage limits for internet customers.

If you stream video or music, you may be affected by the possible change. Services such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu rely upon the ability to stream HD to their customers.

David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, America's largest cable company, predicted at a conference Wednesday that in five years' time, the company will have "a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint."

How that plays out for users has yet to be determined, but a data cap might be set at 500 gigabytes per month, which would allow users to stream about 125 HD movies month. A typical HD movie is about 4-5 GB in size.

But that cap could easily be surpassed in a household with multiple devices such as PC’s, tablets, smartphones and other internet-capable devices.

Comcast is experimenting with 300GB data caps in some markets in the U.S.

NBC News contributed to this report.

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