President Obama Monday made his strongest statement yet in support of strict net neutrality rules, urging the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers (ISPs) as Title II providers.
In a video statement broadcast online, Obama said that current Internet policies, which have refrained from so-called “toll roads” and “gate keepers,” have been essential to maintaining the integrity of the Internet.
“Abandoning these principles would threaten the Internet as we know it,” Obama said.
Obama made clear that he’s not in favor of distinguishing between different types of networks.
“Whether you use a computer, phone or tablet, Internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website,” Obama said.
The President also urged the FCC to block any policies that would allow any given company to “pay for priority over its competitors.”
Recognizing that the FCC is an independent agency that will make the ultimate decision on the how the Internet is regulated, Obama noted that millions of public comments made on the FCC’s website have urged the Commission to protect the Internet for consumers and not the cable companies and ISPs.
“Americans have made their voice heard, standing up for the principles that make the Internet a powerful voice for change,” Obama said. “As long as I’m the president that’s what I’ll be fighting for too.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler welcomed Obama’s input but said there’s more work to do in sorting out the best way to proceed.
“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,” Wheeler said in a statement.
Not surprisingly, the wireless carriers balked at Obama’s comments. Verizon also pointed out possible legal troubles with a Title II classification of ISPs. Verizon adovcated for a “light-touch regulatory approach” that it says has worked for the past two decades and called a Title II classification of ISPs 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,” Verizon suggested. “Moreover, this approach would be gratuitous. As all major broadband providers and their trade groups have conceded, the FCC already has sufficient authority under Section 706 to adopt rules that address any practices that threaten harm to consumers or competition, including authority to prohibit ‘paid prioritization.’ For effective, enforceable, legally sustainable net neutrality rules, the Commission should look to Section 706.”
The Wireless Association President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker slammed the President’s suggestion as unnecessary and even harmful to the wireless industry.
“Imposing antiquated common carrier regulation, or Title II, on the vibrant mobile wireless ecosystem would be a gross overreaction that would ignore the bipartisan views of members of Congress and the FCC, would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry and would threaten mobile provider’s ability to invest and innovate, all to the detriment of consumers. CTIA strongly opposes such an approach,” Attwell Baker wrote.
Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman applauded Obama’s comments. In a statement on the Group’s website, Kimmelman recognized Obama’s comments as promoting the open Internet by advocating for “the strongest possible tools” for blocking unfair throttling and prohibitive practices.
Filed Under: Industry regulations