Yesterday, President Barack Obama unequivocally stated his support for real net neutrality, putting to rest any doubts about where he stands on the issue, emphatically opposing any rules that would allow ISPs to enter into paid prioritization agreements and create fast and slow lanes on the Internet:
"I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: that is something I’m opposed to," Obama said.
The President’s latest comments come as the FCC begins the process of sorting through the 3.7 million comments filed in response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules to replace the Commission’s Open Internet Order that was vacated by a court ruling in January. President Obama’s position is consistent with the vast majority of those commenters, over 99% of whom want the FCC to institute strong net neutrality rules.
This is not the first time the President has publicly supported net neutrality. As recently as this summer, he trumpeted the importance of an open Internet. Yet the President’s strong words yesterday left no room for doubt: it is clear the Administration supports Title II reclassification.
Which is why, in opposing Internet regulations that would permit companies to pay ISPs for priority access, President Obama voiced his opposition to the FCC Chairman’s proposed net neutrality rules. Under the Chairman’s proposal, the FCC would permit any paid prioritization deals that were “commercially reasonable.” While it is entirely unclear what “commercially reasonable” paid prioritization deals would entail (one of many major problems with the proposal), the Court of Appeals that vacated the FCC’s prior rules made clear that, unless the FCC reclassifies broadband under Title II, any new rules will have to permit paid prioritization. If, as the President said, he wishes the FCC to refrain from promulgating rules “creating two or three or four tiers of Internet,” the FCC must act in accordance with the overwhelming tide of public opinion and reclassify broadband as a common carrier service under TItle II. Having the President reiterate his strong commitment to net neutrality rules should remind the FCC of the importance of its decision and the widespread desire for meaningful rules preventing ISP discrimination.