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'Net Neutrality' Rules Would Regulate Internet Like A Utility

LOS ANGELES ( — The Federal Communications Commission has agreed to impose strict new regulations on Internet service providers.

The regulatory agency voted 3-2 Thursday in favor of rules aimed at enforcing what's called "net neutrality," an idea that holds that service providers shouldn't intentionally block or slow web traffic, creating paid fast lanes on the Internet.

Despite the vote, two out of three Americans are opposed to the idea of the U.S. government regulating Internet service, according to a recent poll.

Under net neutrality rules, Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile would have to act in the "public interest" when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone.

KNX 1070's Jon Baird reports rules would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone, banning providers from "unjust or unreasonable" business practices.

The FCC vote is considered a victory for consumer advocates and companies like Netflix and Twitter that have long warned that some providers want to create paid "fast lanes" on the Internet, edging out cash-strapped startups and smaller Internet-based businesses.

The broadband industry is expected to sue, arguing that the plan constitutes dangerous overreach. Republicans in Congress said they will try to pass legislation scrapping the rules, although it's unlikely that such a bill would be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

But according to a new poll, most Americans are unfamiliar with the proposed regulations, with three-fourths of Americans saying they are unfamiliar with what the rules would actually entail.

"One way or another, I am committed to moving a legislative solution, preferably bipartisan, to stop monopoly-era phone regulations that harm Internet consumers and innovation," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement earlier this week.

Twitter said the new rules were a matter of protecting free expression.

"Safeguarding the historic open architecture of the Internet and the ability for all users to 'innovate without permission' is critical to American economic aspirations and our nation's global competitiveness," Twitter wrote in a company blog post this week.

Net neutrality is the idea that websites or videos load about the same speed. That means you won't be more inclined to watch a particular show on Amazon Prime instead of on Netflix because Amazon has struck a deal with your service provider to load its data faster.

Angelenos were divided over the matter, with some supporting at least a modicum of government intervention and others wary of any type of role for Washington officials.

"I don't want monopolies by a handful of communications companies; I don't want them telling us what we can see or can't see," said one man.

"I think the government should stay out of it," another woman said. "I think the Internet is the very basis of freedom of speech."

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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