Delay sought on net neutrality plan

WASHINGTON — A Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday called on the agency’s chairman to delay a proposal for new net neutrality rules, throwing into doubt whether the chairman will be able to muster enough votes at an FCC meeting next week to issue proposed rules.

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of three Democrats on the five-member commission, said Wednesday that a delay was warranted because of a “torrent of public response” to the idea that the rules might create a fast lane on the Internet for companies willing to pay for it.

Last month, Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman, said he would aim to get a new set of proposed Open Internet rules before the commission at its May 15 meeting. The commission would then vote on whether to put the proposal out for public comment before adopting a final version.

Since then, tens of thousands of individuals, companies, interest groups and others have visited with or written to the FCC about the topic, most of them opposing any sort of paid access that might cause some Internet content to be favored over others.

The call for delay makes clear that there is no consensus on how the commission should proceed. The two Republican commissioners oppose new rules, and Mignon Clyburn, the other Democrat, said last Thursday that she continued to oppose any proposal for an Internet fast lane, which would allow Internet service providers to offer some companies a way around web congestion.

Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for Wheeler, said that he intended to go ahead with his planned introduction of a proposal.

“Chairman Wheeler fully supports a robust public debate on how best to protect the Open Internet, which is why he intends to put forward his proposals for public comment next week,” Gilson said. “Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online.”

A federal appeals court has twice thrown out FCC attempts to write rules on net neutrality, the idea that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows from content providers to consumers and back.

— Staff and wire reports