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Obama: FCC Needs to Reclassify Internet as a Utility - Update 2

| 12 Nov 2014 17:30

POTUS wants the Internet to be reclassified under the FCC's Title II powers.

Update 2: After President Obama issued his stance on net neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he would attempt a solution that would cover some of that Obama wants, while not completely alienating broadband providers.

"What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn't affect your business," said Wheeler during a meeting with the likes of Google and Yahoo!, according to The Washington Post. "What I've got to figure out is how to split the baby."

Wheeler, once a high-profile lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications sectors, obviously has experience in dealing with the like of Comcast and Verizon, and his current, soon-to-be-replaced tiered Internet policy reflects that experience.

The FCC is an independent agency, which means Wheeler can take the President's thoughts into consideration, but Obama cannot issue orders to the FCC Chairman.

Update: We've included a number of reactions to President Obama's statement from politicians and corporations alike. See below.

Original Story: Four million public comments were submitted to the FCC on its Open Internet policies, and President Barack Obama has now officially lent his voice to that list.

POTUS, who came out against the "fast lane" policy proposed earlier this year, has emerged amidst the mid-term election aftermath to call on the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify the Internet as a utility, using powers granted under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

The reclassification would bring Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and other broadband providers under the "common carrier" umbrella, meaning, among other regulations, such providers would be subject to regulations treating all internet traffic equally. This would effectively end any sort of "fast lane" strategy.

President Obama has been publicly for net neutrality in the past -- even before being elected in 2008 -- but today's video, statement are his strongest words on the issue to date.

"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," said President Obama in a prepared statement. "But combined, these rules mean everything for preserving the Internet's openness.

"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 President's full statement can be read here.

Right now, the FCC classifies broadband internet as a "Information Service." This kind of classification extends to various entities that operate online, namely social media platforms (Facebook), and any other content-heavy service (YouTube, Vimeo). The President wants broadband services removed from this group, and reclassified under "Telecommunications Services." This group is where the phone companies live, and the classification opens companies under the FCC's purview to stricter laws and regulations.

2014 has been a tipping point for how the Internet is treated by corporations, and how it's used by American citizens. While the Internet has been largely open since its inception, broadband providers have been inching towards a tiered/pay-to-play system that could have far-reaching consequences. We've seen the first of such actions with Netflix paying Comcast and Verizon for priority access to its networks.

After President Obama's statement was released, Comcast's stock was down as much as 6.24 percent today, although it has regained some ground, now sitting at $53 per share.

Reactions to President Obama's remarks are starting to trickle in from Capitol Hill. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a reaction statement, saying "The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation." The statement also said the agency would "...incorporate the President's submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding."

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who has championed net neutrality for years, also issued a statement to the press, praising President Obama for bolstering his stance.

"I welcome today's news that President Obama is pressing the FCC to maintain a free and open Internet. He joins a chorus of more than 3.5 million Americans who have told the FCC that killing net neutrality is a terrible idea, and who strongly believe a very simple principle: there shouldn't be one Internet for deep-pocketed corporations and a separate Internet for everyone else.

"What the President is asking the FCC to do-to reclassify Internet service as a utility-is simply common sense, and it would ensure that rich corporations couldn't pay for an Internet fast lane. That's why over the summer, I and several of my colleagues urged the FCC to do just that.

"Net neutrality is a simple concept: all content on the Internet must travel at the same speed. It's been the architecture of the Internet since it was created. It's made the Internet a platform for enormous innovation and economic growth. And it should stay that way. I hope the FCC agrees."

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) this morning said "'Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government."

Corporations that are subject to such regulations are also chiming in. Netflix and Firefox have come out strongly in support of President Obama's statement, while Comcast and Verizon are asking for a less regulated approach to an open Internet.

"To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper," said Comcast in a press release. Verizon has similar thoughts on the matter, saying that reclassification "would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation."

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

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