Obama's net neutrality push cheers some, riles others

from USAToday,

President Obama's call for net neutrality could drive the Federal Communications Commission to regulate broadband service like a utility as a way to protect consumers' ability to access all content without a threat of connectivity being throttled. The FCC is an independent agency that will establish its own rules. But Obama's public prodding could push the agency to adopt a new set of regulations that will allow greater oversight of Internet service providers. Obama walked into the fray Monday, seeking more clarity on the hot-button issue. His unequivocal support for "net neutrality" – the notion that any and all content should be treated equally by Internet providers – could add fervor to a fight that has already gone on for years. "We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online."

Specifically, Obama called for prohibiting ISPs from blocking or deliberately slowing any legal content. His proposals also include a recommendation to mostly ban paid-for "fast-lane" access, in which a content provider refusing to pay extra would be subject to slower Internet transmission. His support for the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband Internet service and regulate it as if it's a utility – like electricity and water – rallied many consumer advocacy groups that have asked for a similar strategy to protect unfettered access. The reclassification would give the FCC "much greater authority to address consumer problems," says John Bergmayer, an attorney at technology policy advocacy group Public Knowledge. "It's a source of authority that the FCC can draw on for many broadband problems."

However, industry groups that represent ISPs criticized the plan. "Such a move would set the industry back decades, and threaten the private sector investment that is critically needed to ensure that the network can meet surging demand," the Telecommunications Industry Association in a statement. Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, compared the plan to Obamacare on Twitter, saying that "the Internet should not operate at the speed of government."

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