- Obama Pushes Net Neutrality
- November 22, 2014
- Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
President Obama, who has supported the concept of net neutrality since he first ran for president, for the first time this week outlined a specific path for new regulations. Under his plan, the Federal Communications Commission would invoke a controversial authority to essentially treat Internet service like a public utility.
"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," Obama said.
The statement thrilled liberals and Internet activists who argue that classifying broadband Internet as a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Communications Act is the only way to enact net-neutrality rules that can survive legal challenges from industry groups. Obama urged the FCC to use the provision to ban Internet providers from blocking websites, throttling Internet service, or creating any special Internet "fast lanes" for websites that pay more. The rules would apply to home Internet connections and mobile devices.
As expected, Republicans pounced. While most GOP lawmakers are skeptical of net neutrality generally, they are adamantly opposed to utility-style regulation of the Internet under Title II.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who is poised to become chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the president's plan would "stifle our nation's dynamic and robust Internet sector with rules written nearly 80 years ago for plain old telephone service." House Speaker John Boehner vowed that Republicans will continue their efforts to "stop this misguided scheme to regulate the Internet."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called it "Obamacare for the Internet."
The net-neutrality fight will likely drag on for years. The major broadband providers have threatened to sue the FCC if it invokes Title II, which would mean drawn-out court battles. And Republicans will probably do everything they can to kill the rules, such as passing repeal legislation, trying to defund the FCC, and dragging agency commissioners into oversight hearings.
Democrats aren't worried about a long showdown with Republicans over the issue though. In fact, they appear to be relishing it.
Democrats believe that defending net neutrality, the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, will be a winning issue for them. Republicans are going to put up fierce resistance, warning that the rules will hurt investment in high-speed Internet networks, ultimately meaning higher prices and worse service for everyone. But Democrats believe that the public is on their side, and the fight will make it clear which party is really in favor of an open Internet.