President Obama took a strong stance on net neutrality – the idea of keeping the Internet neutral and open – Monday in an open video statement on the subject. In about two minutes, the president managed to say several things, the most notable of which is that he believes that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be in charge of the Internet as it does every other utility.
Comments on Obama’s statement ranged from snickers about how well he read from the teleprompter this time to the ramifications of his pink-insh striped shirt.
In all seriousness, though, the commentary has been compelling. Both for and against the president’s call for FCC oversight. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who himself has been advocating just such a move, applauded the president’s statements in a release made shortly after the video went live. The FCC has already made a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to elicit comments on the idea of pushing forward legislation to add the Internet to their purview.
House Speaker John Boehner vowed that Republicans would oppose this “misguided scheme to regulate” the Internet. While this sounds like partisan rhetoric, the broader statement made is in regards to how FCC regulation would likely lead to a stifling of the entrepreneurial free market spirit of the Web. An argument which has merit if we consider the state of the rest of the utilities under the FCC’s regulatory control. Other Republicans, notably John Thune of South Dakota, point out that the rules President Obama referred to for regulating the Internet are 80 years old and were only recently updated to account for fax machines and cell phones. Senator Ted Cruz, never at a loss for one-liners, tweeted that “Net Neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
Democrats, of course, were largely in favor of Obama’s proposal. Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Ed Markey, and others all came out with statements applauding the president’s statements.
Most major internet service providers (ISP) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon came out opposing the plan to put the FCC in charge under full utility control. Statements were largely similar, saying that two decades of precedent have created the open Internet we have now without government regulation and that the “light handed” approach given to regulation thus far has been successful and needs not change.
AT&T went so far as to call putting the Internet fully under the control of the FCC “a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.”
On the flip side, smaller Internet powerhouses like Netflix, Firefox, Kickstarter and others all tweeted or made statements in support of the president’s plan to put the FCC at the helm.
So how about you, reader? What do you think? Should the FCC be given regulatory control over the Internet, or should it be left as it is?