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Net neutrality backers call out President Obama: Is a free and open Internet a thing of the past?

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New rules will make surfing the Internet much less of a sure thing.

The continuing clash over net neutrality is picking up speed. The Federal Communications Commission recently voted on a proposal that could allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users.

By a 3-2 vote, the commission advanced the proposal and has begun formally collecting public comment, which has already started.

In typical Washington fashion, the proposed rule is intended to prevent Internet providers from knowingly slowing data, but would allow content providers the right to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. Many opponents of the plan say allowing some content to be transmitted faster would basically discriminate against other content.

“Candidate Obama promised to defend a free and open Internet, pledging to take a 'backseat to no one' on the issue of Net Neutrality,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress in an emailed statement. “The President can't run away from this. Internet users across the country are demanding answers.”

 Many opponents of the plan say allowing some content to be transmitted faster would basically discriminate against other content. 

Consumer advocates want to see the FCC reclassify Internet providers as utilities, similar to telephone companies.  That’s because a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that broadband services are not to be classified as telecommunications services and its infrastructure is not considered a public right of way.

"I will not allow the national asset of an open Internet to be compromised. I understand this issue in my bones," Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, said during the meeting.

The public will have until July 15 to submit initial comments on the proposal to the commission, and until Sept. 10 to file comments replying to the initial discussions.

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