US President Barack Obama voiced support Monday for "free and open Internet" rules that would ensure that no service is stuck in a "slow lane" without paying a fee.
In a video statement, Obama said he wants the independent Federal Communications Commission to "implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," a principle that bars broadband providers from blocking or throttling certain services.
Obama's comment comes amid heated debate among online industry sectors as the FCC seeks to draft new rules to replace those struck down this year by a US appeals court, which said the agency lacked authority to regulate Internet service firms as it does telephone carriers.
Obama says Internet providers shouldn't be allowed to cut deals with online services like Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to move their content faster.
In a lengthy statement, Obama asserted "there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet." He urged the FCC to reclassify broadband service as a Title II telecommunications service but with caveats that would shield it from some aspects of regulation for such services.
"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. To do that, 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. 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," Obama said in a statement.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has previously said the agency would consider reclassifying broadband under Title II -- a move staunchly opposed by Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other Internet service providers as an unnecessary step that would impose undue burdens.