President Obama Calls for New Rules Protecting Net Neutrality

In a statement and video posted on the White House website, President Obama formally announced his support of an open Internet, urging the FCC to treat consumer broadband service as a public utility. The president is proposing a strict net neutrality policy that opposes any need for content providers to pay broadband companies extra for faster access. Service providers including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon were quick to respond, suggesting that the proposal would not stand up in court.

Supporting the proposal of many net neutrality advocates, the president is calling for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify consumer broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

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“Mr. Obama specifically called for the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet access as a utility, and then to ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing down traffic, or striking deals to give some websites special treatment,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “He also argued that any rules should apply to both mobile and fixed networks, a departure from the FCC’s previous set of net neutrality rules in 2010.”

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association said that it was “stunned that the president would abandon the longstanding and bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet.”

According to Variety, “the NCTA said that ‘this tectonic shift in national policy, should it be adopted, would create devastating results.’ It called on the FCC to leave the issue to Congress, which it said can ‘easily unravel the legal and jurisdictional knot that has tied up the FCC in crafting sustainable open Internet rules, without resorting to the rules of the rotary dial phone era.’”

Internet companies such as Netflix applauded the president’s plans, as did many Democrats in Congress and numerous consumer advocacy groups, while AT&T said it would challenge such rules. House Speaker John Boehner described the proposal as a “misguided scheme” to regulate the Internet, one that would meet resistance from Republicans.

The threat of litigation adds pressure to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who “faces strong pressure from net neutrality supporters and Web companies to enact strong rules, as well as pushback from broadband providers wary of giving the FCC more regulatory power,” notes WSJ.

In his response to the president’s Title II proposal, Wheeler suggested the FCC is considering a more robust, hybrid approach.

“The reclassification and hybrid approaches before us raise substantive legal questions,” wrote Wheeler. “We found we would need more time to examine these to ensure that whatever approach is taken, it can withstand any legal challenges it may face. For instance, whether in the context of a hybrid or reclassification approach, Title II brings with it policy issues that run the gamut from privacy to universal service to the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers, as well as legal issues ranging from the ability of Title II to cover mobile services to the concept of applying forbearance on services under Title II.”

Related Stories:
The FCC Fires Back at the President’s Net Neutrality Plan, TechCrunch, 11/10/14
Obama Calls for Strict Net Neutrality Policy, The New York Times, 11/10/14