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Obama Makes Stand on Net Neutrality
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Obama takes a position promoting net neutrality while FCC decides new rules

Summary: Obama urges net neutrality, while the FCC plans on changing rules.

Though Ebola has kept a sexy hold on our interest lately, the issue of net neutrality, less talked about, is more likely to touch your life. Net neutrality, or the “open Internet,” is the ideal of keeping all Internet traffic the same. The Federal Communications Commission and various broadband service providers hope to change that, giving a “fast lane” to those businesses willing to pay for it, and hence, for the rest of the democratic mix of other companies hoping for traffic, a slow lane.


The discussion has reached a new dimension of interest now that President Barack Obama has weighed into the matter, and despite the defensive position Democrats have been put into and the the lame duck status of the President, he has decided on a hard line to keep the internet the same for everybody.

“My appointee, Tom Wheeler [Chairman of the FCC] knows my position,” said Obama in a speech on Oct. 10, as reported by Time. “I can’t – now that he’s there — I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about is, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of the Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”

Internet culture made its political heft felt during the SOPA/PIPA controversy of 2011. It became clear that the Internet community holds a prominent place in political debate, and the future of the Internet and how it is regulated is a wide-reaching issue.

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Obama hopes the FCC will group broadband service providers under Title II of the Communications Act, which will give them the same status as “common carriers” the way phone companies do, giving all customers the same degree of service.

“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,” claimed a Verizon spokesperson in a statement.

Various Republican leaders such as Senator Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy all warned against classifying the Internet under Title II, citing the same reason others want to make such a classification –that it would stifle innovation. The premise seems to be that innovation is to be economically encouraged, and not as it has so effectively been encouraged thus far, under the extant Open Internet regulations, without creating fast lanes for those who can pay.

The revised rules for broadband Internet need to be published by Nov. 19 in order for the FCC to vote for them in December. With such businesses as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T claiming they deserve the economic windfall that a tiered system would provide for having set up the the internet in the first place, and with such internet companies as Google, Amazon, and eBay fighting against the tiered system, the issue has the rise and tension we’d expect of something epic.



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