President Obama asks the FCC for stronger net neutrality protections

— 12:07 PM on November 10, 2014

President Barack Obama has come out firmly in support of net neutrality. In a video message posted on YouTube, the U.S. President reveals that he's asked the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet access under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. "In plain English," he says, "I'm asking them to recognize that, for most Americans, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life." Here's the full statement:

The clever lead-in almost excuses the use of the term "information superhighway."

Although the President concedes that he doesn't have the authority to direct the FCC, which is an independent agency, he appears to have the public on his side. When the FCC requested comment on proposed rules that would allow so-called "fast lanes" that prioritize traffic for select services, it received millions of responses overwhelmingly opposing the plan.

Obama's plan to "keep the Internet free and open" is based on the "four commonsense steps" listed below.

  • No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player—not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
  • No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called "throttling"—based on the type of service or your 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. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
  • No paid prioritization. Simply put: 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. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.

ISPs will surely take issue with some of the provisions. It will be interesting to see how this battle shakes out, especially since the public seems so engaged—albeit largely at the behest of comedian John Oliver.

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