President Barack Obama has said he disagrees with a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to create a two-tiered internet that would allow Internet Service Providers to prioritize certain online traffic.
Obama made the statement to reporters on Tuesday at the US Africa Business Forum in Washington, arguing that new rules proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former government lobbyist, could stifle competition and free speech online.
In a transcript in response to questions, he said, “In the United States, one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers. That’s the big controversy here. You have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more but then also charge more for more spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster or what have you.
“And I personally, the position of my administration, as well as I think a lot of companies here, is you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to various users. You want to leave it open so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed.”
While net neutrality was a part of his election campaign when he advocated “a level playing field for whoever has got the best idea,” Obama hasn’t taken a very strong stance on net neutrality as president until now.
In opposing the FCC’s new rules which were voted on in May, Obama is in the company of online companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, as well as FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and plenty of the 27 thousand individuals who have submitted official comments as part of the review process.
While the FCC’s plan forbids ISPs from acting in a “commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.” The ambiguous wording has many worried that it could be “commercially reasonable” to allow ISPs to, for instance, charge companies like Netflix or Amazon extra to for better network speeds.
According to digital rights group Public Knowledge, part of the reason for the FCC’s peculiar rules is to comply with a ruling from the DC Circuit which struck down the previous open internet rules in January. However, if the FCC reclassifies broadband internet access as a Title II common carrier, it could prevent ISPs from being able to discriminate between traffic.