WASHINGTON - A divided Federal Communications Commission has approved rules meant to prohibit broadband companies from interfering with Internet traffic flowing to their customers.

The 3-2 vote yesterday marks a major victory for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has spent more than a year trying to craft a compromise.

The FCC's three Democrats voted to pass the rules, while the two Republicans opposed them, calling them unnecessary regulation. The new rules are likely to face intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill once Republicans take over the House. Meanwhile, public interest groups decried the regulations as too weak, particularly for wireless systems.

The rules require broadband providers to let subscribers access all legal online content, applications and services over their wired networks - including online calling services, Internet video and other Web applications that compete with their core businesses.