President Tells FCC He Supports Net Neutrality

The White House and the Federal Communications Commission might be gearing up to do battle over the issue of net neutrality.

President Obama Monday called on the FCC to develop "the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality." To that end, the president recommended that the agency reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than an information service, a move that would be popular with consumers but unpopular with Internet service providers.

The proposed approach, also known as Title II or common carrier, would give the FCC more authority over broadband providers than it has now. If Obama pushed for it, he would likely face a huge fight from ISPs.

"Simply put: No service should be stuck in a 'slow lane' because it does not pay a fee," Obama said. "That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet's growth."

ISPs Fire Back

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents the country's largest ISPs, quickly responded to Obama's statement.

"We are stunned the president would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and calling for extreme Title II regulation," said NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, who was chairman of the FCC under President George W. Bush.

Telecom giant Comcast seconded the NCTA's concerns.

"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," the company said.

Obama, who is traveling in Asia, posted a statement and video message online conceding that since the FCC is an independent agency, it can rule on the issue autonomously. But he agreed with consumer advocates by saying the FCC should explicitly ban "paid prioritization" and reclassify ISPs so that they're...

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