Obama Proposes that Internet be Reclassified as a Utility

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
(AP graphic)

President Barack Obama called on Monday for the Internet to be classified as a public utility, which would ensure equal access and speeds for all who use it.


Obama announced while traveling through Asia that it was time for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (pdf) so it is treated as a common carrier, the same as phone companies.


The president’s proposal comes amid growing concern over efforts by telecommunications giants like Verizon and Comcast to charge corporations like Netflix extra money to gain greater bandwidth and faster streaming for customers. Instead, net neutrality would mean that a provider couldn’t block legal sites; couldn’t “throttle,” or slow, traffic depending on its source; more transparency to ensure data is being treated equally throughout its path; and that companies couldn’t pay to get faster traffic.


 “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business,” Obama said in a statement. “It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.”


Obama has no power to make the change directly. The FCC, which consists of three Democratic members, including its chairman Tom Wheeler, and two Republican members, might or might not follow Obama’s suggestion.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Obama’s Plan to Save the Internet (by Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo)

Net Neutrality: President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet (White House)

Obama Asks FCC to Adopt Tough Net Neutrality Rules (by Edward Wyatt, New York Times)

42 Civil Rights Groups Support Telecoms against Open Internet (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

House Republicans Fight to Stop City-Owned Internet Providers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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