President Barack Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to keep the Internet “free and open” through heavier regulations of internet providers during an announcement made on Nov. 10.
The concept of regulating the Internet is called “net neutrality,” which means that Internet service providers “should not block, slow or manipulate data moving across its networks,” according to AP. Internet content generally loads at the same speed as similar files on other sites, as long as the content isn’t against the law.
The announcement came as the FCC struggled with legal complexities as it neared a decision on whether broadband providers should be given permission to cut deals with content providers.
The stricter regulation would affect Internet providers like Verizon and AT&T by prohibiting them from charging “data hogs,” like Netflix, to move its content more quickly, the Associated Press reported.
“We are stunned the president would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and calling for extreme regulation,” said Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, according to AP.
This “tectonic shift in national policy, should it be adopted, would create devastating results,” Powell continued.
Obama said on Nov. 10 the FCC should “reclassify consumer broadband as a public utility under the 1934 Communications Act so there’s no legal ambiguity,” according to AP. He also suggested the FCC should ban any “paid prioritization” on the Internet.
“It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information- whether a phone call, or a packet of data,” Obama said, according to AP.
Net Neutrality was informally made a rule in 2010 by the FCC but was overruled in January 2013 after a federal appeals court ruled the FCC didn’t have “legal authority to tell broadband providers how to manage their networks”, according to AP.
Obama’s announcement came suddenly, as he was traveling in China at the time. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “the President ‘felt this was an appropriate time’ to make his views known because of the FCC’s regulatory timeline,” AP reported. “There are members of Congress on both sides of this,” Earnest added.
The announcement brought mixed reactions, with many Republicans denouncing Obama’s plan as “government overreach.”
“‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said on Twitter. “The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts disagreed by saying, “When the leader of the free world says the Internet should remain free, that’s a game changer.”