The President’s Statement
An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.
“Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. 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. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.
When I was a candidate for this office, I made clear my commitment to a free and open Internet, and my commitment remains as strong as ever. Four years ago, the FCC tried to implement rules that would protect net neutrality with little to no impact on the telecommunications companies that make important investments in our economy. After the rules were challenged, the court reviewing the rules agreed with the FCC that net neutrality was essential for preserving an environment that encourages new investment in the network, new online services and content, and everything else that makes up the Internet as we now know it. Unfortunately, the court ultimately struck down the rules — not because it disagreed with the need to protect net neutrality, but because it believed the FCC had taken the wrong legal approach.
The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. 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. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use every day, and that some ISPs already observe. These bright-line rules include:
• No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
• No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
• Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
• No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
If carefully designed, these rules should not create any undue burden for ISPs, and can have clear, monitored exceptions for reasonable network management and for specialized services such as dedicated, mission-critical networks serving a hospital. But combined, these rules mean everything for preserving the Internet’s openness.
The rules also have to reflect the way people use the Internet today, which increasingly means on a mobile device. I believe the FCC should make these rules fully applicable to mobile broadband as well, while recognizing the special challenges that come with managing wireless networks.
To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past. 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 in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. 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.
So 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. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.
Investment in wired and wireless networks has supported jobs and made America the center of a vibrant ecosystem of digital devices, apps, and platforms that fuel growth and expand opportunity. Importantly, network investment remained strong under the previous net neutrality regime, before it was struck down by the court; in fact, the court agreed that protecting net neutrality helps foster more investment and innovation. If the FCC appropriately forbears from the Title II regulations that are not needed to implement the principles above — principles that most ISPs have followed for years — it will help ensure new rules are consistent with incentives for further investment in the infrastructure of the Internet.
The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known. The FCC was chartered to promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks. In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet. I thank the Commissioners for having served this cause with distinction and integrity, and I respectfully ask them to adopt the policies I have outlined here, to preserve this technology’s promise for today, and future generations to come.
NOVEMBER 12th UPDATE, FROM “Democracy Now!”:
STEVEN RENDEROS[, NATIONAL ORGANIZER, CENTER FOR MEDIA JUSTICE]: Online groups, like 18 Million Rising, Presente.org, Color of Change, would not exist were it not for an open Internet. And we need those spaces for—you know, for Asian Americans, for black and Latinos to have a space to actually shape and be part of the political system in a very significant way, and the open Internet provides that for us.
AMY GOODMAN: Tom Wheeler is the former head of the NCTA, right, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association—
STEVEN RENDEROS: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —which is now headed by Michael Powell, who is the former head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, so they just switched places.
STEVEN RENDEROS: Talk about the revolving door. There’s no better example than that.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet President Obama appointed him.
STEVEN RENDEROS: Absolutely. And I think it will be an interesting moment now to see what Tom Wheeler chooses to do. There was a recent Washington Post article that I think Juan alluded to, where Tom Wheeler is making—you know, separating himself, saying, “We’re an independent agency. We’re going to do our own thing.” And there’s some real—he called President Obama’s approach to net neutrality “naive” and “simplistic.” It could be “naive” and “simplistic.” And what’s naive and simplistic is to really consider that four million people have, you know, commented on this issue, the most ever at the FCC, and to not really take those voices into account, 99 percent of which were in support of net neutrality.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Steve, I’d like to ask you about a touchy question, because President Obama, in taking this stand, is not only going against the cable industry and the telecommunications industry, he’s also going against many of the major civil rights organizations in the country, who have been remarkably AWOL, some of them, on this issue of net neutrality or have actually been supporting the cable companies and the telecommunication companies, which always provide their conferences and their conventions and their programs major funding. Can you talk about this internal battle in the civil rights community over the issue of net neutrality?
STEVEN RENDEROS: Certainly. It’s unfortunate to see that a lot of the legacy civil rights organizations have taken this kind of position when it comes to such a critical, important issue in today’s day. You know, Rashad Robinson from Color of Change oftentimes compares net neutrality to the Voting Rights Act from the ’60s. So I think it’s very unfortunate that that’s the reality today. However, there’s a whole online community of people of color, of queer, trans, other communities that really stake out their voices through an online—through an open net. So, yes, the legacy civil rights organizations are not with us on this issue, but there are new civil rights organizations, like Color of Change, Presente.org, 18 Million Rising, that really present where we really should be at.
AMY GOODMAN: And the number of people who responded online to the FCC around an open Internet? Was it—
STEVEN RENDEROS: Four million.
AMY GOODMAN: Four million people. And the percentage of those who support an open Internet, not the so-called “hybrid” model that Wheeler is putting forward?
STEVEN RENDEROS: Ninety-nine percent. And what’s interesting is four million people, and that’s the most that the FCC has ever received on any issue. This is including Janet Jackson’s Super Bowlgate. So, you know, it’s pretty significant.