President Obama has released a new statement today, calling for the FCC to reclassify internet broadband service as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The President believes the move will help to protect consumers by ensuring the principles of Net Neutrality remain in place.
Essentially, the White House is asking the FCC to regulate internet broadband in a similar fashion as your other utilities, like power and water, less some restrictions in how those services are overseen in regards to pricing. In treating broadband like a utility under Title II, the President hopes to stop ISPs and large corporations (and their advertisers) from entering monetary deals where some sites and services would gain a potentially unfair advantage.
If you're wondering why the President is making this push right now, it's because the FCC is currently reviewing how to handle the delicate issues around Net Neutrality. Court decisions earlier this year were a huge blow to an open internet, potentially giving the green light for ISPs to create systems where access to certain sites may have priority.
Obama's plan calls on four basic principles to uphold Net Neutrality through reclassification.
Obama's plan calls on four basic principles to uphold Net Neutrality through reclassification. First, ISPs should not be able to block anyone from accessing any legal content. Secondly, ISPs should not be able to throttle--or slowdown--your internet speeds, or offer "fast lanes" to certain companies. Third, the President calls for more transparency in how ISPs treat intermediary service providers--like Netflix.
And lastly, the President asks no service or website is given slower access--or "slow lanes"--because they don't pay a fee to ISPs. "I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect," wrote Obama.
While all of this is sure to raise the ire of internet service providers--Verizon sued over similar regulations in Federal Court successfully--it's the inclusion of mobile carriers where things get really tricky. The President has asked these same regulations carry over to "mobile and tablets" since more and more Americans are using these devices to access the internet.
Ultimately, the FCC will debate the merits of these requests on its own since, as the President points out, the FCC is an independent government agency. But as noted by Ars Technica, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was appointed by Obama, and recently proposed similar Title II regulations in regards to how ISPs and websites work together.
Verizon has already responded to the proposed legal changes, saying the move would "apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet." And in a real head-scratcher, Senator Ted Cruz said, "Net Neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet."
While the FCC had previously hoped to make solid decisions on Net Neutrality by the end of 2014, it is widely expected the agency will not announce changes until next year...