President Obama today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality. It represented a rare step by the White House into the policy-setting of an independent agency, reported Reuters.
- A “no blocking” rule where ISPs can’t block lawful Internet traffic.
- A “no throttling” rule banning the intentional slow down some content.
- Increased transparency around how ISPs connect to consumers that would potentially address interconnection deals like the ones between Netflix, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
- A “no paid prioritization” rule, where no service would be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.
“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 democratizing influences the world has ever known.That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” said President Obama.
“Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.
The FCC on May 15 launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is designed to ensure robust, fast and equal Internet access to providers and users.
At the crux of the debate over Net neutrality is Title II of the Telecommunications Act, explains C/Net. The section, which is more than 100 pages long, regulates how common carriers must conduct business across all forms of communication in order to act “in the public interest.” Net neutrality supporters say that the language is vague and could be used to sidestep a free and open Internet.
In a press release, Chairman Wheeler today said the President’s statement is an important and welcome addition to the record of the Open Internet proceeding.
“Like the President, I believe that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth. We both oppose Internet fast lanes. The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation.”
“…Keeping the Internet open includes both the Section 706 option and the Title II reclassification. Recently, the Commission staff began exploring “hybrid” approaches, proposed by some members of Congress and leading advocates of net neutrality, which would combine the use of both Title II and Section 706. The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do.”
Public internet groups have vigorously opposed Wheeler’s proposal, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking any content, but allowed deals where content providers would pay ISPs to ensure smooth delivery of traffic, reports Reuters.
Reaction was mixed, with netneutrality supporters largely supporting Obama’s stance and carriers opposed.
- The Electronic Freedom Foundation said the White House Gets It Right On Net Neutrality.
- The Internet Association — whose members include Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — had previously remained largely mum, said it was in full support of the president’s plan.
- AT&T’s statement today said, “Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.
- Verizon’s statement said, “Reclassification under Title II, 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.”
- The CTIA and its members said, “…applying last century’s public utility regulation to the dynamic mobile broadband ecosystem puts at risk the investment and innovation which characterizes America’s world-leading $196 billion wireless industry.
- Comcast’s statement by VP David Cohen said, “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. This would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation, as today’s immediate stock market reaction demonstrates.”
“We’re going to get sued,” says a senior FCC official to the Washington Post. “But we want to be on firm legal footing. The litigators in the agency want to be sure to do everything to minimize the legal risk.”