The president has finally taken a stance to protect the internet. The major American telecoms, cable companies and business groups were “stunned” after Barack Obama called for tough new regulations for broadband that would protect net neutrality.
The president has called for new wide sweeping legislation to protect neutrality. For those unfamiliar with the term it means that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. This move came as the Federal Communications Commission worked on a new set of proposals for regulation after the old rules were overturned by a series of court defeats.
The Republican senator, Ted Cruz, went so far as to call Obama’s proposal for regulating the web “Obamacare for the internet”, before saying on Twitter “the internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
The head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, who represent Comcast and Time Warner, has said in response to the president, “The cable industry strongly supports an open internet, is building an open internet, and strongly believes that over-regulating the fastest growing technology in our history will not advance the cause of internet freedom,”
The cable and telecom giants appear particularly concerned by Obama saying that the Federal Communications Commission should reclassify the internet as a “public utility” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Such a move would reclassify consumer internet as a “common carrier” service. This means that the internet would be treated like the telephone, thus giving the regulator, the US government, greater power to control prices and services.
Keeping the internet free by using regulation may appear to be an oxymoron, but it prevents companies form being able to alter our services without our consent or knowledge. The regulations also means that companies such as Time Warner or Comcast will have to expressly tell the US government what they are doing to alter the internet marketplace.
National Cable and Telecommunications Association president, Michael Powell, also responded saying, “We are stunned the president would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the internet and [call] for extreme Title II regulation”. This comes across as clearly self-interested and a claim of bi-partisanship only exists because regulating the internet has been difficult to establish until recently.
Fred Campbell, the former head of wireless communications at the FCC, said applying Title II to the internet would create “legal uncertainty at home and encourage the efforts of totalitarian regimes abroad to tighten their control over the internet”.
The president’s statement also included points to protect the internet users and not just punish massive corporations. He said the internet should not include slow lanes, should not block sites or services and that they should not be able to adjust strength of connection, known as throttling.
Obama also called for greater transparency when the internet providers made deals with online services. This may be in reference to Comcast buying Netflix and altering service speeds based on the package which you own. This deal was not made public and the negotiations were not released meaning that as the time the deal was done nobody knew that it was coming or could prepare for the changeover.
This new regulation may well represent a changing of the guard in net neutrality laws, a change which other countries can hopefully take a lead from. This new policy proposal could prevent internet monopolies from forming which would negatively impact we the consumer. A move to prevent those monopolies from forming, just based on transparency, is a major step in the right direction. We need to know what is going on in these companies and what they are doing. More importantly we have to know what they are doing stop us enjoying the freest market we have yet encountered.