Obama: FCC should classify broadband under Title II

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2013_03_obama (Credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)

President Barack Obama released a statement Monday urging the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet services under Title II of the Communications Act to protect net neutrality.

In a statement posted to the White House website, Obama calls for the FCC to adopt “simple, common-sense steps” that would prevent Internet service providers from experiencing any considerable burdens and keep the Internet open for consumers.

“I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services,” Obama said in a statement. “This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.”

Reclassifying broadband service under Title II would designate the Internet as a telecommunications service, thus opening it up to the same regulations that phone services are exposed to. Over the past few months, the FCC has been weighing whether to use Title II or Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act in its forthcoming Open Internet Rules. It was reported last week that the new rules may be so complicated they will be delayed until 2015.

As intricate as the rules may be, Obama drafted four “bright-line” rules he believes the FCC should uphold as they craft new regulations: no blocking of websites, the elimination of “throttling,” increased transparency between ISPs and consumers in the “last mile” of Internet service, and no paid prioritization.

“If the FCC appropriately forbears from the Title II regulations that are not needed to implement the principles above — principles that most ISPs have followed for years — it will help ensure new rules are consistent with incentives for further investment in the infrastructure of the Internet,” Obama said.

Obama did recognize that the FCC’s decision is ultimately up to them and their key mission is to “promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks,” but he also said there is no higher calling than protecting an open Internet.

“The time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do,” Obama said.

Verizon, whose initial court case struck down current open Internet laws, issued a response to Obama’s statement, saying Title II reclassification would be “gratuitous.”

“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,” the company wrote in a statement. “As all major broadband providers and their trade groups have conceded, the FCC already has sufficient authority under Section 706 to adopt rules that address any practices that threaten harm to consumers or competition, including authority to prohibit ‘paid prioritization.'”

Read Obama’s full statement on the White House website, or watch a video statement below.

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Agencies, Barack Obama, Departments, Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality
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