Barack Obama has backed tough net neutrality rules, stating that the internet should not be divided into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”. He is in favor of restructuring broadband as a phone-like utility.
Obama said that internet services should fall under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This would prevent internet providers from charging fees to other companies (such as Netflix) for better delivery speeds.
In a statement Obama said:
“I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online,”
The White House posted a video on Obama’s views on Net Neutrality (video below).
For a while the Federal Communications Commission has looked at how to have net neutrality without Title II reclassification and avoid the legal battles that would follow from internet service providers.
However, consumer advocates have criticized the FCC’s cautious approach. The FCC considered a “hybrid” solution that would only reclassify certain aspects of broadband.
A few years ago the FCC tried to establish net neutrality rules without Title II classification, prohibiting wired Internet providers from blocking certain sites and discriminating and requiring them to be more transparent about their operations.
However, an appeals court put that to rest concluding that the FCC cannot enforce them unless they reclassify broadband completely.
Although Obama does not have any real power in the matter, he has sent a message to the FCC that to enact stricter rules on fast and slow lanes.
Obama acknowledged the FCC’s attempt to try and impose a lighter regulation which was defeated in court by ISPs. Therefore, he is now in favor of going further with a reclassification approach.
The President proposes to extend anti-blocking rules and prohibit ISPs dividing internet into slow lanes and fast lines, or give prioritization to services such as Youtube.
Advocates have said that this kind of prioritization discourages the development of new (potentially better services) as they would be forced to pay more for faster delivery speeds to keep up with current competition.
However, his proposal still allows for prioritization of some clinical services, such as hospitals. In addition, providers would still be allowed to charge whatever they want for Internet service.
But will those provisions be enough for ISPs? Apparently not, as Verizon is already threatening to sue.
“Verizon supports the open Internet, and we continue to believe that the light-touch regulatory approach in place for the past two decades has been central to the Internet’s success,” Verizon Communications Inc. said in a statement Monday.
“Reclassification under Title 2, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation,”
“That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court,”
“The FCC is an independent agency and ultimately this decision is theirs alone, but the public has already commented nearly 4 million times asking the FCC to make the sure the consumers, not the cable company, gets to decide which sites they use,”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he that he is “grateful” for Obama’s comments and said that the president’s statement is “an important, welcome addition” to the FCC’s deliberations.
But Wheeler noted that the legal problems associated with creating the rules are complex and the FCC had “more work to do.”
“We must take the time to get the job done correctly, once and for all, in order to successfully protect consumers and innovators online,” Wheeler said.
Republic Senator Ted Cruz was quick to react to the news, saying in a tweet:
“‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,”
Obama on Net Neutrality