During a Thursday morning meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan that would allow Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon to charge online content providers a fee in exchange for faster service to consumers.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler insisted in a speech immediately preceding the vote that the principals of net neutrality would effectively remain in place because the Commission would crack down on any ISPs slowing customers’ service to levels below what was agreed upon in contracts between ISPs and consumers.

In other words, ISPs would be able to offer tiered service that speeds up sites that elect to pay them a toll, but not slow down ones that decline to do so.

As such, reaction to the decision on social networking sites like Twitter was immediate, visceral, and almost universally negative.

Complaining on Twitter isn’t the only option available to people angry at the FCC’s vote. Starting today, the agency will begin hosting a four-month comment period, during which members of the public can register their opinions about the proposed alterations to Internet governance.

The rules approved this morning by the FCC aren’t final and could theoretically be changed as a result of the information gathered during the public comment period.

Reaction to the comment period was mixed. Some activists urged everyone they knew to write to the FCC and register their displeasure.

Fight for the Future, an open Internet advocacy group that’s been leading the fight to save net neutrality charged that, even though the official public comment period is only now just beginning, the torrent of letters, emails and, phone calls that have deluged the FCC in recent weeks have already made a significant impact.

The group still insisted that further effort is necessary because the only way to truly protect net neutrality is to classify ISPs as ‟common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—meaning they would be legally barred from any form of discrimination based on content, among other things.

Some people, on the other hand, were a good bit more cynical about the efficacy of the entire public comment process.

If you’d like to submit a comment to the FCC regarding net neutrality, you can do so here.

Photo by Douglas Muth/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)