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(White House File Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama plunged into the debate over Net Neutrality this morning, urging the FCC to regulate consumer broadband service as a utility as a means of ensuring that all traffic is treated equally — opposing the concept of “paid prioritization” that would create fast and slow lanes for different content.

He called on the agency to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

“The rules also have to reflect the way people use the Internet today, which increasingly means on a mobile device,” Obama added. “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 proposal will not be popular among telecom companies. Verizon responded in a statement, “Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation. That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court.”

Here is Obama’s video statement on the issue, starting with a cheeky intro …

Obama is asking the FCC to base its rules on these principles.

  • 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.

Update: AT&T issued this statement from Jim Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, which reads in part:

Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.  It is a complete reversal of a bipartisan policy that has been in place since the Clinton Administration—namely, to treat Internet access as an information service subject to light-touch regulation.  This classification of Internet service has been upheld by the Supreme Court and has enjoyed strong Congressional support for nearly a generation.  Now, with one statement, the White House is telling the FCC to ignore this precedent and to instead impose on the entire Internet—from end to end— onerous government regulation designed in the 1930s for a Bell phone monopoly that no longer exists, not for a 21st century technology.  This will have a negative impact not only on investment and innovation, but also on our economy overall.

More coverage: Re/code, USA Today, The Verge, and the Washington Post.

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