U.S. communications regulators said on Wednesday they are considering whether wireless devices should be subject to different Internet traffic rules than telephone and cable lines, in a potential victory for carriers.
At issue is net neutrality, a term that means high-speed Internet providers should not block or slow information, or make websites pay to reach users more quickly.
Broadband providers and Internet companies have held a series of meetings this summer to forge a framework on how to treat the flow of Internet, but failed to reach an agreement.
The Federal Communications Commission has been involved in many of the talks and has been seeking public comments on the topic for months.
Proponents of net neutrality, including some Internet companies and public interest groups, argue consumers will be harmed if carriers create a two-tiered Internet.
Carriers such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc say they need to prioritize traffic on wireless networks due to congestion and already do so on handsets to allow people to make and receive phone calls.
Earlier this month Google Inc and Verizon proposed a plan that would give them more flexibility to manage wireless broadband traffic and possibly create a fast lane.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said those recent events have highlighted questions on how open Internet rules should apply to specialized services and to mobile broadband.
Genachowski wants public comment to see how the industry and consumers will be affected if wireless devices are treated differently.
The information received through this inquiry, along with the record developed to date, will help complete our efforts to construct an enforceable framework to preserve Internet freedom and openness.
His comments came about three weeks before the agency holds an open meeting. It is unclear if the FCC will address Internet traffic rules at the meeting.
(Reporting by John Poirier; editing by Andre Grenon)