Obama Backs Net Neutrality

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  • In his most direct effort yet to influence the debate about the Internet's future, US President Obama said that a free and open Internet was as critical to Americans' lives as electricity and telephone service
  • The Internet service should be regulated like those utilities to protect consumers.
  • The Federal Communications Commission, Obama said, needs to adopt the strictest rules possible to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers.
  • That approach, he said, demands thinking about both wired and wireless broadband service as a public utility.
  • Obama, who is traveling in Asia, said in a statement:For almost a century , our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business.
  • It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.
  • The president’s move was widely interpreted as giving political support to Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman.
  • Wheeler is close to settling on a plan to protect an open Internet, often known as net neutrality, and Obama’s statement could push him to adopt a more aggressive approach.
  • Any set of rules needs three votes from the five-member commission, which now has three Democrats and two Republicans.
  • The debate may hinge on whether Internet access is considered a necessity, like electricity, or more of an often-costly option, like cable TV.
  • But the leading providers of Internet access, increasingly dependent on revenue from broadband subscriptions, quickly denounced the proposal.
  • Republicans and some investment groups also spoke out against the plan, saying the regulation was heavy-handed
  • It also would kill online investment and innovation.
  • Wheeler, who was appointed by Obama, said he agreed with the president that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation and economic growth.
  • He stopped short of promising to follow the president’s recommendation, saying more time was needed to consider options and adopt an approach that could withstand any legal challenges it may face.
  • As an independent agency, the FCC does not directly answer to the president.
  • It answers more to Congress, which controls its budget and the laws under which it operates.
  • While Obama has long offered vocal support on the idea of net neutrality, he has been more opaque about how it should be achieved through policy.

Exams Perspective:

  1. What is net neutrality?