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"Net neutrality" rules aim to preserve the qualities that have made the Internet such a hotbed for creativity and innovation, including the freedom to connect with audiences and experiment with new businesses. Some conservative critics question the need for such rules, saying there's no real evidence of a problem. On the other hand, some liberals warn that broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast will steer users to favored sites and services unless they're regulated as rigorously as the local phone monopolies in the old Bell system.
Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for the wireless and cable industries, didn't rule out taking the latter route someday. For now, however, he wants the commission to try the less heavy-handed approach suggested by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled in January that the FCC had the authority to protect net neutrality but not through the sweeping requirements it adopted in 2010. So Wheeler plans to propose a less prescriptive, more flexible set of rules to preserve the status quo of openness and innovation online. He's expected to lay out a formal proposal for the new rules within a few months.
Ideally, more broadband providers would emerge to compete with the cable and phone companies, eliminating the need for net neutrality rules to keep those companies honest. Wheeler said he'd look for ways to boost competition, such as by helping local governments offer broadband services. But aside from