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Net neutrality debate is reaching a key point

The FCC is participating in forums across the country to hear public comment on net neutrality
The FCC is participating in forums across the... 01:52

The hot-button issue of Internet service that treats all Web traffic the same -- also know as Net neutrality -- has been pushed off the front pages in recent weeks. But you can expect it to return with a vengeance soon.

For instance, earlier this week in Sacramento, Calif., two commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spoke at a hearing hosted by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) as part a series of forums about the topic taking place across the nation.

The FCC is endorsing new rules that could cle... 02:51

The FCC calls the Internet we all know today the "Open Internet." According to the agency, "It's open because it uses free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way. ... Under this principle, consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition and enables investment and innovation."

Along with hearings on the subject, the FCC has received nearly 4 million comments on its proposed Net neutrality rules, which are expected to be unveiled at the end of the year.

"Everything we do today is dependent on a free and open Internet," Representative Matsui told CBS affiliate KOVR-TV. "Net neutrality is fundamental to that. That means that nobody is actually taking charge of it. There are no toll gates."

Many advocates and consumers are concerned that without net neutrality, major Internet providers like Comcast (CMCSA) and AT&T (T) will not only control the speeds at which consumers get certain services and applications on the Internet but charge more for (or even deny access to) access to certain services or applications.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee also held hearings this month on Net neutrality. "Open Internet rules are the Bill of Rights for the online world," Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement ahead of those hearings. "It is crucial that rules are put in place to protect consumers, online innovators, and free speech."

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