Obama, Boehner, McConnell on net neutrality collision course

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WASHINGTON — Though President Barack Obama is in China, the White House on Monday released the steps he wants to take to ensure net neutrality and the road ahead for the internet. Obama is asking the FCC for rules to make sure there isno blocking, no throttling, increased transparency and no paid prioritization. This may be another issue where Obama is on a collision course with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who in statements strongly urged the federal government to keep its hands off the internet.

In competing Tweets, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, applauded the move while Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called it “Obamacare for the Internet.”

REACTIONS…

Support from Common Cause…

Common Cause Urges FCC to Heed Obama’s Call for Open Internet Protections

President Obama’s call for strong Open Internet (“net neutrality”) protections under Title II of the Telecommunications Act is an important step toward ensuring that the Internet remains a forum for the free and robust exchange of ideas, Common Cause said today.

The President’s leadership should encourage the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to write rules that ban paid prioritization and Internet Service Provider (ISP) censorship. Strong Open Internet rules preserve the innovative capacity of the Internet and ensure that its transformative power extends to all consumers – not just those who can afford a fast lane.

“The President wasn’t kidding when he said he’d take a back seat to no one on net neutrality,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC Commissioner now serving as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “Thank you, Mr. President. And thanks to the millions of Americans who helped make this happen. As someone who has been pushing for Title II since 2002, when the FCC wrongly classified broadband, I am thrilled. Now the FCC must show the same kind of leadership and courage.”

The courts have twice thrown out previous FCC attempts to draft net neutrality rules under other legal authority.

Against, from CTIA-The Wireless Association

“CTIA and its members are committed to delivering an open mobile Internet, but applying last century’s public utility regulation to the dynamic mobile broadband ecosystem puts at risk the investment and innovation which characterizes America’s world-leading $196 billion wireless industry. The facts are clear that, under the current mobile-specific regulatory framework, the U.S. wireless industry plays a vital role in the nation’s economy, employing more than 3.8 million Americans, driving more than $113.4 billion in capital investment, leading the world in LTE network deployment and providing a platform for innovation for U.S. consumers and businesses. Imposing antiquated common carrier regulation, or Title II, on the vibrant mobile wireless ecosystem would be a gross overreaction that would ignore the bipartisan views of members of Congress and the FCC, would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry and would threaten mobile provider’s ability to invest and innovate, all to the detriment of consumers. CTIA strongly opposes such an approach.S

Support from CREDO…

“This is huge. President Obama just proved whose side he is on — that of the American people and an open and equal Internet,”said Becky Bond, Political Director of CREDO. “Now it’s up to his FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and the twoother Democratic commissioners serving on the commission that regulates the telecom industry. Will they stand with Comcast, AT&T and Verizon or the president and the American people?”

Support from the Internet Association…

Statement from Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association:

“The Internet Association applauds President Obama’s proposal for the adoption of meaningful net neutrality rules that apply to both mobile and fixed broadband. As we have previously said, the FCC must adopt strong, legally sustainable rules that prevent paid prioritization and protect an open Internet for users. Using Title II authority, along with the right set of enforceable rules, the President’s plan would establish the strong net neutrality protections Internet users require. We welcome the President’s leadership, and encourage the FCC to stand with the Internet’s vast community of users and move quickly to adopt strong net neutrality protections that ensure a free and open Internet.”

AGAINST, HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER R-OHIO…

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration continues to disregard the people’s will and push for more mandates on our economy. An open, vibrant Internet is essential to a growing economy, and net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship. Federal bureaucrats should not be in the business of regulating the Internet – not now, not ever. In the new Congress, Republicans will continue our efforts to stop this misguided scheme to regulate the Internet, and we’ll work to encourage private-sector job creation, starting with many of the House-passed jobs bills that the outgoing Senate majority ignored.”

AGAINST, INCOMING SENATE MAJORITY LEADER SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL R-KY…

“The growth of the Internet and the rapid adoption of mobile technology have been great American success stories, made possible by a light regulatory touch. This approach has freed innovators to develop and sell the products people want–and create jobs in the process–without waiting around for government permission. The President’s decision today to abandon this successful approach in favor of more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats is a terrible idea. The Commission would be wise to reject it.”

Background: Earlier this year McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership team–Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Conference Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee John Thune (R-South Dakota), Policy Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) — sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the matter.


Below, from the White House…

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 10, 2014

Statement by the President on Net Neutrality

Today, in a statement and video message posted online, President Obama announced his plan for a free and open internet. The text of the President’s statement is below, and an online version of his statement and video can both be found here .

***

An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.

“Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.

When I was a candidate for this office, I made clear my commitment to a free and open Internet, and my commitment remains as strong as ever. Four years ago, the FCC tried to implement rules that would protect net neutrality with little to no impact on the telecommunications companies that make important investments in our economy. After the rules were challenged, the court reviewing the rules agreed with the FCC that net neutrality was essential for preserving an environment that encourages new investment in the network, new online services and content, and everything else that makes up the Internet as we now know it. Unfortunately, the court ultimately struck down the rules — not because it disagreed with the need to protect net neutrality, but because it believed the FCC had taken the wrong legal approach.

The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use every day, and that some ISPs already observe. These bright-line rules include:

· No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.

· No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.

· Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.

· No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.

If carefully designed, these rules should not create any undue burden for ISPs, and can have clear, monitored exceptions for reasonable network management and for specialized services such as dedicated, mission-critical networks serving a hospital. But combined, these rules mean everything for preserving the Internet’s openness.

The rules also have to reflect the way people use the Internet today, which increasingly means on a mobile device. I believe the FCC should make these rules fully applicable to mobile broadband as well, while recognizing the special challenges that come with managing wireless networks.

To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past. For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. 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.

So 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.

Investment in wired and wireless networks has supported jobs and made America the center of a vibrant ecosystem of digital devices, apps, and platforms that fuel growth and expand opportunity. Importantly, network investment remained strong under the previous net neutrality regime, before it was struck down by the court; in fact, the court agreed that protecting net neutrality helps foster more investment and innovation. 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.

The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known. The FCC was chartered to promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks. In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet. I thank the Commissioners for having served this cause with distinction and integrity, and I respectfully ask them to adopt the policies I have outlined here, to preserve this technology’s promise for today, and future generations to come.

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