President Barack Obama spoke in favor of net neutrality this week, pushing back against the idea of paid prioritization, which many call Internet “fast lanes.” Following the president’s comments, a number of technology companies joined cultural and privacy groups in praising the American leader.
The corporations and organizations penned a letter citing the president’s comments directly, and saying that in the wake of his remarks that they are “counting on [the president] to take action to ensure equality on the Internet.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler painted himself into a corner of sorts when he advocated for net neutrality rules that would allow for some edge providers — video companies, etc. — to pay ISPs for prioritized access to consumers. Those arrangements would be contingent to the test of “commercial reasonableness.”
The plan has few fans. It isn’t clear what Wheeler intends, or even if he has the votes on his commission to pass his plan. Discontent extends from the White House to Congress to Silicon Valley.
President Obama does a decent job at explaining the stakes:
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. 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.
The FCC has received more than 1.1 million comments so far on the issue, making net neutrality the most-commented-on proposed rule-making ever. Chairman Wheeler wants to move on the issue this year, so we should reach the chrysalis moment in short order.
Getting the Internet right is a pretty big deal. Having the most powerful human alive on the side of keeping it safe is a pretty good thing. Your move, Chairman Wheeler.