By: Dana Liebelson – 

The Federal Communications Commission will vote this week on a net neutrality proposal that could shape the future of a free and open Internet. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the people who will decide the fate of that proposal, elaborated on Tuesday about her views on the issue.

Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a proposal to reclassify consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. This move will allow the FCC to bar Internet Service Providers from charging content providers such as Netflix more for reliable Internet access. The debate pits telecom and cable companies against consumers, with consumer advocates arguing that weak net neutrality rules will undermine fair and equal Internet access.

The FCC’s four commissioners, along with Wheeler, will vote on the proposal on Thursday. The proposal is expected to pass the commission, which has a Democratic majority constituted of Wheeler, Clyburn and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. However, net neutrality advocates are watching to see whether the final draft includes any loopholes for telecom and cable companies.

Clyburn told reporters at a Tuesday summit sponsored by the trade association COMPTEL that Wheeler’s proposal is “reflective of where I was in 2010, that is, attempting to strike a balance” between the needs of consumers and companies. “On Thursday,” she continued, “you’re going to see sort of a mind meld of all of those objectives and goals and I am supportive of [Wheeler’s] objectives of trying to realize that.”

Asked whether she believes Title II reclassification would strike the balance she is seeking, Clyburn said, “I am confident that the direction and the vote that we will take Thursday will reinforce all of these objectives and more.”

The Hill reported earlier on Tuesday that Clyburn had asked Wheeler to “roll back some of the restrictions,” before the vote, thereby putting the chairman “in the awkward position of having to either roll back his proposals, or defend the tough rules.” The report claimed that Clyburn was requesting a legal change that would diminish the FCC’s ability to monitor how ISPs deal with traffic at “interconnection points,” which are the gateways between ISPs and the rest of the Internet.

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Sharon Sanders
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