The latest politician to add his voice to the growing coalition supporting Title II reclassification and strong net neutrality rules is none other than U.S. President Barack Obama. The President, in remarks given at this week’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, made a strong statement in favor of real net neutrality, saying, “I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users. You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”
Here’s the thing: the only way to ensure there is no “differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users” is to reclassify the Internet as a “common carrier” under Title II. The crux of the current debate surrounds under what legal authority the FCC can protect an open Internet, one without paid prioritization and fast lanes. The FCC Chairman, in public statements, has signaled his intent to work under the current legal structure--called Section 706--but, simply, the law will not allow that.
The D.C. Appellate Court has made it abundantly clear that the FCC must reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service” under Title II if it wants to ban the type of behavior President Obama spoke out against. According to that Court, the FCC’s prior rules preventing ISPs from discriminating against or blocking access to disfavored companies were “per se common carrier obligations,” and only services subject to Title II can be treated as common carriers. Quite simple, in fact.
Which is why the President’s statements are so important. It’s now clear that the President must support reclassification. And those comments came at a particularly important time. As you likely know, the FCC, and its Chairman, Tom Wheeler, are currently evaluating a number of proposals dedicated to protecting the Internet, and keeping it free for innovation.
In making his comments, President Obama joins with hundreds of our country’s leading startup companies, Fortune 500 corporations, technologists, advocacy organizations, Internet users and supporters across the world in calling for the Internet to be reclassified under Title II. We look forward to continuing our work with the Administration to protect and “leave open” the Internet to ensure that all startups, especially the “next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”