FCC votes in favor of new Net Neutrality rules, leaves room for 'fast lanes'

Five months ago, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals came down hard and essentially neutered 2010's Open Internet Order. Today, the FCC voted -- in a split decision along party lines -- to try again with a proposal for new Net Neutrality rules. Nothing's set in stone yet (the final vote on the matter will take place later this year) and that's a good thing: It sounds like the FCC could use as much input as it can get.

Let's back up for a moment, first. The Open Internet Order was designed to (among other things) prevent wired internet service providers from meddling with or blocking lawful traffic, but those two tenets were struck down in court earlier this year. The commission's new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking still maintains that traffic can't be outright blocked, and Chairman Tom Wheeler essentially wants to set a "fast and robust" performance baseline that ISPs will be bound to. That said though, it wouldn't be impossible (not verboten) for those companies to proffer pricier fast lanes to consumers so long as they're "commercially reasonable."

UPDATE: The FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is now available here.

That certainly doesn't mean the chairman is a fan of the notion, though. He added that "nothing in this item authorizes paid prioritization," and that he'll "work to see that does not happen."

"There is one internet," Wheeler said. "Not a fast internet; not a slow internet. One internet."

Exactly what "commercially reasonable" means is still unclear, as are many of the most important facets of the proposal. That's because the commission basically wants as much input as it can get, be it on whether or not paid prioritization of traffic should be allowed at all, or what law could be invoked to best enforce its vision. To that end there's going to be a 60-day period for public comment, followed by another 57 days for responses. Got a burning point to make at those in power? The Electronic Frontier Foundation will open its public comment tool to help get your voice heard once the FCC releases its proposal notice in full.