Obama Caught in Net Neutrality Storm

Image: Obama Caught in Net Neutrality Storm President Barack Obama participated in an interview with YouTube and Google on Jan. 30, 2012.

Monday, 19 May 2014 09:02 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama has been caught in the middle of a storm over net neutrality after the Federal Communications Commission proposed to let broadband providers charge website companies for faster service.

The measure has angered consumer rights advocate and tech leaders, as well as young Internet users, because it erodes the concept of net neutrality, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The net neutrality principle suggests that Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, without discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, or type of equipment.

The proposals from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler support the preservation of open access to the Internet by preventing broadband providers, such as Comcast Corp., from blocking any websites.

But the proposals also would allow broadband suppliers to negotiate with content providers, such as Netflix Inc., to have preferential treatment or "fast lanes" to the consumers, according to the Journal.

Obama, who has supported net neutrality since before becoming president, is now facing the wrath of consumer and tech activists.

"I did not spend the better part of two decades helping turn Silicon Valley from a Republican bastion to a Democratic bastion so my own team could fumble the ball on the 2-yard line," Wade Randlett, a major Democratic fundraiser and tech-industry activist, told the newspaper.

Randlett also warned that he may cut off his Democratic funding if the proposals are adopted.

"I can't imagine one thin dime for any presidential candidate of either party who comes through the valley without full-throated support for net neutrality," he said.

"This will become a toxic political issue for anyone to be against," Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of news-sharing website Reddit, told the Journal.

Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who organized a protest letter to the FCC from 100 tech companies, including Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., said, "A lot of us supported Obama because he was so passionate in his support of net neutrality."

Obama spokesman Jay Carney has distanced the White House from the FCC proposals by saying it’s an independent agency, while also noting that the president still supports net neutrality.

Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is urging the FCC to consider reclassifying broadband as a utility, such as telephone service, which would result in greater government control, a position supported by many net neutrality advocates.

The proposals were accepted after the commission voted along party lines, with Republicans members opposing any form of regulation on the industry.

The FCC will allow public comment of the proposals during the next four months before deciding whether to implement the new rules.

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