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President Obama Calls On FCC For Return To Net Neutrality

by Mike Futter on Nov 10, 2014 at 03:15 AM

This morning, President Barack Obama called upon the Federal Communications Commission to protect net neutrality and a free and open Internet. The President has requested service providers abide by four rules to protect fair access.

In a statement issued on the White House website, Obama suggests the FCC adopt four principles for providers. He asks that blocking of legal content be prohibited, the elimination of throttling practices that speed or slow some content, increased transparency that would prevent special treatment at all connection points (not just between the ISP and end-user), and the abolishing of paid prioritization that creates a "fast lane" for some data.

The president also asks that these rules apply to mobile broadband providers, though he acknowledges that there are additional challenges inherent in that sector. "Whether you use a computer, phone, or tablet, Internet providers have an obligation not to block or limit your access to a website," he writes. "So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do."

The plan calls for reclassification of the Internet as a utility under the the Telecommunications Act. However, Obama does not call for rate regulation.

The FCC is an independent agency, and cannot be ordered by the executive branch to adopt policy changes. Five commissioners are nominated by the president to serve five-year terms and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three being from the same political party.

Earlier this year, the FCC was forced to revise its Net Neutrality rules after a court ruling took issue with the legal justification behind them. Following the January ruling, telecommunications companies began exploring ways to impose "fast lane" charges to the biggest content providers, like Netflix.

[Source: White House]

Our Take

The president's plan comes a bit late, but it is welcome nonetheless. Reclassifying the Internet as a utility recognizes the social realities of its importance. Ultimately, the final cost is going to be passed down to the end user. If Net Neutrality lives, then ISPs will likely increase fees. If it dies and individual content providers have to pay for "fast lane" access, they will pass those costs to users. This comes down to equal access to information for all users without ISP intervention on speed or blocking.