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Obama stumps for net neutrality as FCC considers regulations that could alter Internet speeds

13 Oct , 2014  | by:

Not all of U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign promises have come to fruition. Remember Obama’s 2007 pledge to lead the most transparent administration in history? Seven years later, excessive prosecutions and threats under the Espionage Act, pressures on reporter James Risen to reveal his confidential sources, and resistance to Freedom of Information Act requests, among other measures, have proven that Obama has not lived up to his campaign rhetoric concerning transparency and press freedoms.

But with regard to another promise–net neutrality–it seems as if Obama is staying true to his word. Obama, last week during a town hall meeting in Santa Monica, California, affirmed his commitment to net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet content be treated equally. In other words, net neutrality provides that Internet service providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) treat all Internet data the same and not give preferential treatment to some content over other content. Obama told the Santa Monica crowd:

“… [T]he 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.”

In early 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new regulations that would allow companies that provide Internet services to charge companies or certain websites (Facebook, Amazon, or Netflix, for example) to operate at quicker speeds. The continuation of the “open” Internet as we know it has been questioned since this proposal. Getting rid of net neutrality could potentially create “fast” lanes where more wealthy companies and websites could get their content to users faster, while websites with limited resources would reach users at a slower pace.

For example, let’s say the FCC began allowing people or companies to pay for “fast” lanes. Netflix opted into this and paid for faster speeds. Then, if you typed in “Netflix.com” and my blog “MLonML.com” in two browsers at the same time under the same Internet service provider, theoretically Netflix would load more quickly.

Over the past months, the public submitted more than three million comments to the FCC and Chairman Tom Wheeler on the issue of net neutrality. Wheeler, who was nominated by Obama, is a former telecommunications industry lobbyist.

Obama reiterated at the town hall: “My appointee, [FCC Chairman] Tom Wheeler, knows my position. . . . I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”

The FCC stopped accepting public comments on net neutrality on Sept. 15. A vote from the FCC on the new net neutrality proposal is unlikely until November, according to Business Insider.

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