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Shortly after the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet (or net neutrality) rules bit the dust when a federal appeals court rejected them, activists petitioned the White House to direct the FCC to re-regulate Internet lines under rules that were written for phone networks.
Obama administration officials wouldn’t go that far, but today the White House responded to the petition (which got more than 105,000 signatures). Basically, they said that President Obama continues to support the Open Internet but that the decision on how to regulate Internet lines lies with the FCC. They reaffirmed their support for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s efforts to uphold net neutrality principles.
Advisers Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, and Todd Park, the nation’s chief technology officer, said in response:
Preserving an open Internet is vital not to just to the free flow of information, but also to promoting innovation and economic productivity. Because of its openness, the Internet has allowed entrepreneurs — with just a small amount of seed money or a modest grant — to take their innovative ideas from the garage or the dorm room to every corner of the Earth, building companies, creating jobs, improving vital services, and fostering even more innovation along the way.
Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries. The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide.
A wide spectrum of stakeholders and policymakers recognize the importance of these principles. In the wake of last month’s court decision, it was encouraging to hear major broadband providers assert their commitment to an open Internet.
It was also encouraging to see Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom the President appointed to that post last year, reaffirm his commitment to a free and open Internet and pledge to use the authority granted by Congress to maintain a free and open Internet. The White House strongly supports the FCC and Chairman Wheeler in this effort.
The petition asked that the President direct the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as “common carriers” which, if upheld, would give the FCC a distinct set of regulatory tools to promote net neutrality. The FCC is an independent agency. Chairman Wheeler has publicly pledged to use the full authority granted by Congress to maintain a robust, free and open Internet — a principle that this White House vigorously supports.
As we mentioned last week, the FCC is expected to announce its latest effort to craft lasting net neutrality rules as soon as this week.