The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to move ahead with a set of proposed rules aimed at guaranteeing an open internet, The New York Times repoted.
The rules would prohibit high-speed internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against legal content flowing through their pipes.
Even as the plan aimed to prevent data from being knowingly slowed by internet providers, content providers would be allowed to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. According to some opposed to the plan, allowing some content to be sent along a fast lane would essentially discriminate against content not sent along that lane.
Three Democratic commissioners on the five-member panel, including the chairman, Tom Wheeler, voted in favour of opening the plan to public comment. The plan with immediate effect, would be open for comment for four months.
According to Tim Wu, the law professor at Columbia University who coined the term ''net neutrality,'' the concept needed to be protected by law and regulation.
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was told by 11 senators that rules allowing companies to pay an internet service provider for express-lane access to consumers would violate the principle of an open internet.
For four months now, the public would be able to offer inputs on rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in what would likely emerge as a bone of contention between some tech companies and consumer advocates on one side and Republicans and broadband providers on the other, over the extent to which the agency could regulate internet traffic.
Meanwhile, there were protests today at the FCC with many consumer advocates rejecting FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal that might allow some "commercially reasonable" deals in which content companies could pay broadband providers to prioritise traffic on their networks.
Critics worry the rules could create "fast lanes" for companies which meant slower traffic for others. Wheeler vowed to use all his powers to prevent "acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have nots.' "
He said he would not allow the national asset of an open internet to be compromised, Reuters reported. He added, the prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the internet was unacceptable.