By Ian Bush

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — The FCC last week made major waves when it announced its “Open Internet” proposal — rules that could alllow some sites to pay more to intermediary companies, like Comcast and Verizon, to get to your screen faster, while others are stuck with the rest of the traffic.

The agency’s chairman today fired back against critics in his first public speech on the issue.

Net neutrality supporters say the FCC’s proposal shreds the idea that everything online is kept on a level playing field.

“Reports that we’re gutting the open Internet are incorrect,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to the annual gathering of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

He said that the rules will be “tough, enforceable,” and will protect consumers — but also businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I do not intend to allow innovation to be strangled by the manipulation of the most important network of our time: the Internet,” he said.

Still, Wheeler insists, the FCC will not allow companies to force us into a “slow lane.”

“The bottom line on the Open Internet rules is that the Internet will remain an open pathway,” he told the NCTA.

The commission is taking public comment, with a vote scheduled for May 15th.

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