Today, President Obama laid out his plan to protect the free and open Internet. He noted that “an open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.”
Specifically, the President noted that “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. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act – while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone – not just one or two companies.”
President Obama said he believed the FCC should create a new set of rules to protect net neutrality and ensure that neither cable companies or phone companies are able to act as gatekeepers, restricting what anyone can do or see online. He proposed “simple, common-sense steps” for the FCC to consider as they approach the net neutrality debate:
- No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, an ISP should not be permitted to block it.
- No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up other content based on the type of service or an ISP’s preferences.
- Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs – the so-called “last mile” – is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. The FCC should make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
- No paid prioritization. No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. There should be an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
The battle over regulation of the Internet moves to Congress this week. Until now, the question of whether the Federal Communications Commission should have the power to force Internet service providers to treat all customers equally has been a legal matter, tied up in federal courts.
But on Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler heads to Capitol Hill to face the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who is openly critical of the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules — the commission’s attempt at ensuring a level playing field on the Internet.
Last week, the FCC, on a split decision, voted to open public discussion on the rules. More than 22,000 public responses have already poured into the commission’s comment site.
This story is boiling up.
Journalists have largely played net neutrality as a battle among three players: the Internet providers delivering data to your home or business, consumer groups wanting to keep the providers from cutting deals with companies seeking a fast lane into homes, and businesses operating online and relying solely on the Internet for their survival — Amazon, for instance.
In what would amount to a reversal on net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules that would allow companies like Netflix and Amazon to pay for high-speed delivery of their content, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The rules to be presented Thursday would prevent Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner from blocking or throttling individual websites called up by users, the Journal’s Gautham Nagesh reported. But broadband providers could offer companies preferential treatment for speedier lanes to get their content quickly to consumers based on “commercially reasonable” terms. Consumers could end up paying more for services if companies pass on the additional charges.