Update 8 January, 10pm GMT: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has just appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, confirming earlier reports that he will back strict net neutrality rules.

Wheeler said: "We're going to propose rules that say that no blocking (is allowed), no throttling, no paid prioritization."

Net neutrality will be protected by regulations enforced by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) despite objections from telecoms firms, according to new reports.

Anonymous sources involved in discussions with the agency have been cited by Bloomberg as saying the FCC is signalling its intent to keep the internet free and open.

Net neutrality, the concept that all web traffic should be treated equally, has been discussed by the commission in relation to new rules proposed by internet service providers (ISPs) to create "fast lanes" for companies willing to pay for fast data speeds.

Occupy Google Protestors Arrested Defending Net Neutrality
Occupy Google protestors at Google's Mountain View headquarters in September 2014 Occupy Google

More than four million comments concerning the controversial proposals for a "two-speed internet" were submitted to the FCC last year after the issue was opened up for public feedback.

Advocacy groups and major technology firms such as Facebook and Google have been among those vocalising their concern about the implications of not having sufficient rules to protect net neutrality.

The internet as a "vital service"

In November, US President Barack Obama called on the FCC to protect a free and open internet, claiming "no blocking", "no throttling", "increased transparency" and "no paid prioritisation" where necessary to enforce net neutrality.

"An open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life," Obama said in a statement. "By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratising influences the world has ever seen.

"We cannot allow internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.

"The time has come for the FCC to recognise that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many other vital services do."

The FCC's decision is yet to be officially made and follows almost a year of debate on the subject after a US court rejected rules to guarantee net neutrality.

A vote on the matter is set for 26 February and will be decided by the five FCC commissioners led by chairman Tom Wheeler.