Obama Net-Neutrality Stance May Spur Fight With GOP

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from Wall Street Journal,

His Call Has Hardened Lines on Web-Traffic Regulation.

President Barack Obama ’s call Monday for strong net-neutrality rules has hardened the political and ideological lines on government regulation of Internet traffic and increased the likelihood of a standoff with newly ascendant congressional Republicans.

Mr. Obama’s plan was cheered by liberal activists, congressional Democrats and Silicon Valley companies, which say that without such rules broadband providers would be able to pick online winners and losers by deciding which websites reach consumers at the fastest speeds. Republicans and the broadband industry say Mr. Obama’s plan would saddle the Internet with unnecessary regulations and hinder investment in network upgrades.

At its heart, the battle is over the best way to ensure the Internet remains the vibrant heart of the U.S. economy. Conservatives and broadband providers believe the Internet has flourished in the U.S. because its hasn’t been heavily regulated. Supporters of net neutrality—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally—believe the government must intervene to preserve online innovation.

Mr. Obama specifically called for the Federal Communications Commission to go beyond its previous proposals and explicitly ban broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or giving preferential treatment to some websites. To achieve that, he said, the FCC should classify broadband as a utility or common carrier, which would open up the industry to greater regulation.

But changing how broadband providers are classified is politically volatile, in large part because the law used to regulate the telecommunications industry hasn’t been updated significantly since 1996, when broadband Internet access was still in its infancy.

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