The political debate over net neutrality rages on with millions of people who have differing vested interests in the future of Internet connectivity in the United States.
In November, President Barack Obama issued a statement in support of net-neutrality rules and greater Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation. Obama is asking the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which would essentially classify Internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers and protect consumers with the same rules.
Obama called for the FCC to promote four rules. He wants to prohibit ISPs blocking customers from accessing lawful websites and services. He also called for ISPs to be forbidden from throttling or intentionally slowing down traffic. Obama called for increased transparency in the handling of traffic between ISPs and the rest of the Internet. Finally, Obama asked the FCC to block paid prioritization, meaning no ISP would be able to slow down traffic from a user simply because he or she isn’t paying an additional fee.
“That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth,” Obama said. “So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.”
While the president has no authority over the FCC or its actions, such demonstration of support from the administration could sway the debate as Congress changes hands.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested the president’s input would have little bearing on FCC action.
“As an independent regulatory agency, we will incorporate the president’s submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding,” Wheeler said. “We welcome comment on it and how it proposes to use Title II of the Communications Act.”
Obama appeared aware of his power limitations but indicated the American people strongly support net neutrality.
To correlate, the same day that Obama made his statement, the University of Deleware released a study that showed more than 80 percent of Americans support net neutrality, demonstrating overwhelming bipartisan public support.