Staff at the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday recommended establishing an open Internet rule aimed at restricting network operators from favoring some content over others along landlines and wireless platforms.
The full FCC slate of three Democrats, led by Chairman Julius Genachowski, and two Republicans are expected later to decide whether to propose a so-called network neutrality rule.
Even after a flurry of lobbying in the last several weeks by opponents like AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, the commission is expected to approve the issuance of the proposed rule and accept public comments until January 14.
The draft rule would allow for reasonable network management by broadband providers to unclog congestion, clear viruses and spam, and block unlawful content like child pornography and the transfer of content infringing on copyright.
Staffers at the wireless, wireline and other bureaus said they would accept public comments until January 14, and reply comments would be due by March 5.
Advocates of net neutrality such as Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc and public interest groups say Internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Verizon Wireless and Comcast Corp must be barred from blocking or slowing traffic according to how much revenue the content generates.
But providers say the increasing volume of bandwidth-hogging services, like video sharing, requires active management of their networks.
Late on Wednesday, Verizon Wireless softened its opposition by issuing a joint policy blog statement with Google. They said they believe it is essential that the Internet remain an unrestricted and open platform.
Google and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc, are partnering to develop an Android-based mobile phone.
With the threat of a court fight looming, Democrats in Congress are mulling legislative options to promote net neutrality.
(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)