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In some cases, Internet providers such as Verizon, AT&T and cable companies can demand, for example, that Google pay them to ensure that YouTube videos are accessible to all their consumers, or Google could pay extra to ensure that YouTube videos are delivered faster.
"Pretending the FCC has authority won't actually help Internet users when websites are being blocked or services are being slowed down," said Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a public-interest group that focuses on the media industry. "If the agency really wants to stop censorship, discrimination and website blocking, it must reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service," he said in a statement.
The revised rules to be proposed by the FCC, as outlined by Wheeler, "would enhance transparency for consumers so they know if and when their Internet service provider is slowing down or blocking online content," said Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees the FCC.
Netflix Inc., one of the biggest users of Internet bandwidth in the U.S., reportedly is in a dispute with Verizon and other telecom companies over the cost of carrying Netflix's programming over their networks. Those service providers want Netflix to pay more to use their network, according to The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. The dispute is said to have slowed Netflix's content flow over Verizon's fiber optic network, just as Netflix debuted the second season of its popular "House of Cards" dramatic series.
Comcast last week announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable, another of the biggest broadband companies, for $45.2 billion.