Obama backs net neutrality, asks FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility

The US president has sided with net neutrality advocates and has encouraged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify consumer broadband service from a “information service” to a “telecommunications service.”

“‘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,” Barack Obama said. “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.”

“I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online,” he stated, then named and explained the four rules he would like to see ISPs be made to abide by:

  • No blocking of any legal content
  • No throttling – intentionally slowing down some content or speeding up others 
  • No service being pushed into a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee
  • Increased transparency when it comes to the connection between consumers and ISPs, and the ISP and the rest of the Internet.

“If carefully designed, these rules should not create any undue burden for ISPs, and can have clear, monitored exceptions for reasonable network management and for specialized services such as dedicated, mission-critical networks serving a hospital. But combined, these rules mean everything for preserving the Internet’s openness,” he noted.

“The rules also have to reflect the way people use the Internet today, which increasingly means on a mobile device. I believe the FCC should make these rules fully applicable to mobile broadband as well, while recognizing the special challenges that come with managing wireless networks.”

The FCC is an independent regulatory agency, and can’t be compelled by the US president to decide one way or another on any matter, but its chairman Tom Wheeler stated that they welcomed the president’s comment and that it will be taken into consideration along with the other comments made by the public.

He noted that they Commission is working on a solution to let the Internet remain “an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth,” and is especially determined to find a solution that “can withstand any legal challenges it may face.”

President Obama’s statement comes only days after the text of a “hybrid solution” that the FCC has been considering has been leaked, analyzed and rejected by net neutrality advocates.

Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future called it a “sham” and noted that the proposal explicitly opens the door for the setting up of fast and slow lanes on the Internet