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Obama in Support of Net Neutrality

6 Aug, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The President’s comments are the first on the topic since the FCC unveiled a proposal that could pave the way for preferential broadband channels

President Obama reportedly issued his first public comments in support of net neutrality, which mandates equality for all Internet traffic.

Speaking to reporters Aug. 5 at the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., Obama reiterated support for efforts by the Federal Communications Commission’s chief Tom Wheeler to draw up new net neutrality guidelines after an appeals court struck down existing provisions in January.

“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," said Obama, according to The Washington Post. "So you have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more and also charge more for spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster. I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users. You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed."

MoveOn.org, the civic action group, together with grassroots organizations, has aggressively lobbied the Administration not to allow preferential access to the Internet for well-heeled corporations.

"President Obama’s decision to speak forcefully in favor of an open Internet — which contradicts FCC chair Wheeler’s plan to undermine net neutrality — is a huge step forward,” Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a statement.

That said, Galland cautioned that Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist Obama selected to head the FCC, has publicly advocated support for separate broadband channels based on economics.

Indeed, Netflix has reluctantly signed ISP streaming agreements with Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to ensure smoother video access for its subscribers. CEO Reed Hastings, who has characterized the deals as added taxes, has publicly called upon the FCC to investigate the agreements — which it is doing.

“The President is right that we must keep Internet access equal for all. But the FCC chair he appointed is still suggesting our country move in the opposite direction. It's not too late for … Wheeler to abandon his flawed plan to create a two-tiered Internet; the political support is there to treat the Internet as a public utility and preserve its equal use for future generations,” MoveOn's Galland said.

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