Policy: Technology

Obama 'pleased to see' FCC 'keeping all options on the table' on net neutrality

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,Jay Carney,Technology,FCC,Net Neutrality,Internet

President Obama will "carefully review" the new rules proposed by Democratic commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, which liberal activists and Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, oppose.

"The FCC is an independent agency, and we will carefully review their proposal," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday in a statement. "The FCC's efforts were dealt a real challenge by the Court of Appeals in January, but Chairman [Tom] Wheeler has said his goal is to preserve an open Internet, and we are pleased to see that he is keeping all options on the table. We will be watching closely as the process moves forward in hopes that the final rule stays true to the spirit of net neutrality. The president is looking at every way to protect a free and open Internet, and will consider any option that might make sense."

The rules "could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming," according to the Washington Post.

Carney emphasized that "the Internet’s incredible equality — of data, content, and access to the consumer — is what has powered extraordinary economic growth and made it possible for once-tiny sites like eBay or Amazon to compete with brick and mortar behemoths."

Although that statement would seem to cut against the rules, liberal activists wanted a stronger denunciation from the White House.

"This is the beginning of an intense war over the future of the Internet," Becky Bond, political director of the activist group CREDO Action, said before Carney put out that statement. "Attention now turns to President Obama. This is his chairman and his FCC. When he campaigned for the presidency he promised to protect a free and open Internet. And that promise is now being undermined -- by the person he's chosen; someone who seems more interested in doing the bidding of a few large corporations, vs. working in the public interest. It’s time for the president to come off the sidelines and speak out on behalf of Internet users."

Cruz plans to introduce a bill that would deprive the FCC of the authority to make such regulatory changes.

"Congress, not an unelected commission, should take the lead on modernizing our telecommunications laws," he said Wednesday. "The FCC should not endanger future investments by stifling growth in the online sector, which remains a much-needed bright spot in our struggling economy."

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