WASHINGTON — During a question-and-answer session in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday, President Barack Obama voiced his strong support for Net Neutrality and his opposition to the sort of pay-for-priority plan put forward by his appointed chair to the Federal Communications Commission. The remarks were the strongest statement yet from the president against the FCC's current proposal, which 99 percent of those who submitted public comments to the agency oppose.
"I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to Net Neutrality,” Obama said to applause from the audience. "I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.
"I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: That is something I’m opposed to.
"My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t — now that he’s there — I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine."
Obama's position clearly contradicts Wheeler's proposal, which would allow Internet access providers to favor the content of a few wealthy companies over other websites and services. More than 3.7 million people have commented on the issue at the FCC, with the vast majority rejecting Wheeler's plan and calling on the agency to implement real Net Neutrality rules that would prevent Internet service providers from interfering with online content.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“President Obama made a clear and unmistakable call for real Net Neutrality. Now Chairman Wheeler must answer. And the only way to accomplish the president's goals and meet the public's demands is by restoring the FCC's authority under Title II of the Communications Act.
"Title II is what we need, not another convoluted compromise or not-so-clever scheme that will never survive a court challenge. Title II is the only way to prevent the sort of discrimination and tiered Internet the president warned us about. Yet thus far Wheeler seems afraid to take this essential step, favoring an approach that would clearly encourage online discrimination and strand startups, small businesses and everyday Internet users in the slow lane.
“There’s no doubt that Wheeler has lost political support for his proposal. He is opposed by the president, leaders in Congress and millions and millions of Americans. It's time for Wheeler to abandon his plan and commit to using the agency's Title II authority to protect real Net Neutrality."