Washington Responds to President Obama’s Network Neutrality Plan

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President Barack Obama changed every telecom wonk’s Monday plans with a major announcement on network neutrality and protecting the Open Internet. Here’s how wonkland responded.

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler: “As an independent regulatory agency we will incorporate the President’s submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding. We welcome comment on it and how it proposes to use Title II of the Communications Act.” “The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do. The reclassification and hybrid approaches before us raise substantive legal questions. We found we would need more time to examine these to ensure that whatever approach is taken, it can withstand any legal challenges it may face. For instance, whether in the context of a hybrid or reclassification approach, Title II brings with it policy issues that run the gamut from privacy to universal service to the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers, as well as legal issues ranging from the ability of Title II to cover mobile services to the concept of applying forbearance on services under Title II.”
  • “I have repeatedly called on the FCC to use its full statutory authority to preserve a free and open Internet,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller. “Millions of Americans have urged the FCC to carry out its longstanding statutory obligation to protect consumers and competition. I join the President’s call for the FCC to preserve net neutrality by using the full scope of its authority, including Title II, subject to appropriate forbearance. It is now critical for the FCC to act expeditiously, and I know Chairman Wheeler is already engaging all stakeholders for input on how best to move forward.”
  • Sen Ed Markey (D-MA): “When the leader of the free world says the Internet should remain free, that’s a game changer. I commend President Obama for proudly standing up for an open Internet that will remain free of fast and slow lanes for consumers and companies. President Obama today joins millions of Americans who have made their voice heard loud and clear at the FCC. Net neutrality is as a basic to the functioning of the Internet as nondiscrimination is to the US Constitution.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the growth of the Internet and mobile technology has happened because of the FCC's light regulatory touch. "The President’s decision today to abandon this successful approach in favor of more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats is a terrible idea. The Commission would be wise to reject it."
  • “The president’s call for the FCC to use Title II to create new net neutrality restrictions would turn the Internet into a government-regulated utility and stifle our nation’s dynamic and robust Internet sector with rules written nearly 80 years ago for plain old telephone service. The president’s stale thinking would invite legal and marketplace uncertainty and perpetuate what has needlessly become a politically corrosive policy debate,” said Sen John Thune (R-SD), the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
  • “’Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet;” tweeted Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), “the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
  • Sen Ron Johnson (R-WI) said, ““Last week, voters across the country rejected the president’s regulatory policies that have made this economic recovery the weakest in more than half a century. Ignoring this, today the president has decided to go after one sector of our economy that has continued to flourish: the Internet. Treating the dynamic Internet like a government-regulated utility will stall investment and innovation and inject uncertainty into the market through burdensome rules and legal challenges. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee with direct oversight over the FCC, I strongly oppose reclassifying the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act and will remind the FCC that as an independent agency, it answers to Congress, not the White House.”
  • On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said House Republicans would continue their push to "stop misguided schemes to regulate the Internet." "It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration continues to disregard the people’s will and push for more mandates on our economy," House Speaker Boehner said.
  • House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH) released a joint statement saying, “We are extremely troubled and disappointed by the president’s urging the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Today’s announcement is just the latest in a long line of decisions that reveal this administration simply doesn’t know how to grow the economy. The Internet was born here in the United States. It flourished because the federal government had the foresight to get out of the way and let the innovative U.S. economy foster its growth. Sadly, it appears the president is abandoning the successful hands-off policy of his Republican and Democratic predecessors in favor of centrally controlled Internet policy. This is a mistake. One of the few places where investment and innovation have thrived, even in a struggling economy, is the Internet. American companies continue to invest billions of dollars to expand and improve broadband Internet access and online services. Reclassification under Title II threatens our thriving Internet economy and the American jobs it creates. The Internet isn’t a utility, so we shouldn’t treat it as one.”
  • Rep Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Ranking member on the House Commerce Committee, said, “Today is a great day for the Internet. The President has called on the FCC to adopt the three cornerstones of a free and open Internet: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. The President is showing true leadership. He has given strong, unequivocal support for robust open Internet protections. And he has made it clear that he stands with consumers and the public, not the cable and phone companies that could profit by turning the Internet into slow and fast lanes.” Rep Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said, “The President’s statement today recognizes once again the guiding tenets of a free and open Internet. His endorsement of a sound legal approach to open Internet rules will continue the success of the Internet. I strongly urge the FCC to adopt the President’s approach.”
  • Columbia law professor Tim Wu, the person credited with coining the phrase net neutrality, said, “Well, the President has gone all in. He's taken a look at it and said, ‘Why are we doing these half measures?’ Why not just do the most obvious thing, which is a bright line net neutrality rule using the strongest authority the agency has? I don't understand why we would do anything else." I think it was bold and courageous and, in some ways, just obvious. But sometimes, it takes someone who's not deeply embedded in the game to say this is the obvious thing to do to.”
  • “Today the Obama Administration expanded its leadership to promote an open internet by supporting the strongest tools to prevent blocking or throttling of internet traffic, and by also supporting the strongest tools to deter fast lanes and prioritized traffic on the public's most essential communications platform of the 21st century,” said Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman.
  • “The president who promised to take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality has finally gotten in the driver's seat. And he may have saved the Internet at the moment it was in the greatest jeopardy,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron.
  • “This is an important moment in the fight for the open Internet. President Obama has chosen to stand with the us: the users, the innovators, the creators who depend on an open internet. But the fight isn't over yet: we still need to persuade the FCC to join him,” said Corynne McSherry, the Intellectual Property Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress, said, “President Obama’s call for strong Net Neutrality is the latest in the expanding chorus for Title II reclassification. It is increasingly evident that reclassifying broadband under Title II is the most certain and straightforward way to uphold the Net Neutrality principles FCC Chairman Wheeler espouses to support. Chairman Wheeler, who increasingly finds himself isolated on this issue, has called for more time on Net Neutrality. The chairman must now choose between siding with the President and the millions of Americans who support Net Neutrality, or once more kicking the can down the road.”
  • “If you care about equality for all people, you should care very deeply about this issue,” stated National Hispanic Media Coalition President and CEO Alex Nogales. “Network neutrality is one of the foremost civil rights issues in the digital age, and I commend President Obama for reiterating his support for real network neutrality and reclassification as the FCC closes in on a decision.”
  • Amina Fazlullah, the Benton Foundation's Director of Policy, said, “President Obama’s statement on network neutrality is his strongest and clearest yet: the Open Internet is vital to America’s economy and American’s way of life. The Benton Foundation and approximately four million commenters to the Federal Communications Commission strongly agree with the President that the agency must act to ensure cable and telephone companies do not act as gatekeepers, restricting how we can use the Internet. We need rules that will withstand court challenges while banning blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic. As a candidate for the presidency, then-Sen Obama promised to take a back seat to no one when it came to net neutrality. Now it is time for the FCC to protect the Internet with the strongest rules possible and ensure a first-class online experience for all Americans.”
  • “The Federal Communications Commission was created to be an independent regulatory agency, above and beyond the reach of crass politics. The White House’s decision to intervene in an ongoing rulemaking makes a mockery of any sense of independence or impartiality,” said Jeffrey Eisenach, the Director of the Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. “A legitimate case can be made that a decision as large, and as lacking in statutory basis, as the FCC’s intervention in the net neutrality matter is correctly a matter for politicians, not bureaucrats. To the extent that is the case, however, there is only one legitimate route, and it starts in the Congress, not the White House. If the FCC bows to pressure from the White House on this issue, the agency’s reputation will suffer a terrible stain.”
  • USTelecom’s Walter McCormick said, “The president’s call for public utility regulation of the Internet, a shift that will redefine the Internet, insert the government deeply into its management and invite other countries to do the same, is contrary to the best interests of the nation and America’s technology future. At a time when broadband providers are operating in conformance with the very open Internet principles that the president supports, it is baffling why he would risk continued broadband investment, deployment, economic growth and job creation by asking the FCC to reverse course on the very successful bipartisan policy that has now been in place for more than a decade. The court has indicated that the objectives the president seeks can be achieved under the light touch regulatory approach of Title I, and there is a broad consensus on the goals. Such a radical shift in the legal foundation for broadband Internet services will bring strong legal challenges from across the broadband industry.”
  • Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell is now the president and CEO at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association; he said, “We are stunned the President would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and call for extreme Title II regulation. 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. There is no dispute about the propriety of transparency rules and bans on discrimination and blocking. But this tectonic shift in national policy, should it be adopted, would create devastating results.” “The FCC is an independent agency and it should exercise independent judgment in crafting new rules. This is truly a matter that belongs in Congress and only Congress should make a policy change of this magnitude. Congress can easily unravel the legal and jurisdictional knot that has tied up the FCC in crafting sustainable open Internet rules, without resorting to rules of the rotary-dial phone era. We urge Congress to swiftly exercise leadership of this important issue.”
  • Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, said, “Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests. It is a complete reversal of a bipartisan policy that has been in place since the Clinton Administration—namely, to treat Internet access as an information service subject to light-touch regulation. This classification of Internet service has been upheld by the Supreme Court and has enjoyed strong Congressional support for nearly a generation. Now, with one statement, the White House is telling the FCC to ignore this precedent and to instead impose on the entire Internet—from end to end— onerous government regulation designed in the 1930s for a Bell phone monopoly that no longer exists, not for a 21st century technology. This will have a negative impact not only on investment and innovation, but also on our economy overall.” He added: “We feel the actions called for by the White House are inconsistent with decades of legal precedent as well as Congressional intent. Moreover, if the government were going to make such a momentous decision as regulating the entire Internet like a public utility, that decision is more properly made by the Congress and not by unelected regulators without any public record to support the change in regulation. If the FCC puts such rules in place, we would expect to participate in a legal challenge to such action.”
  • Verizon released a statement: “Verizon supports the open Internet, and we continue to believe that the light-touch regulatory approach in place for the past two decades has been central to the Internet’s success. Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation. That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court. Moreover, this approach would be gratuitous. As all major broadband providers and their trade groups have conceded, the FCC already has sufficient authority under Section 706 to adopt rules that address any practices that threaten harm to consumers or competition, including authority to prohibit ‘paid prioritization.’ For effective, enforceable, legally sustainable net neutrality rules, the Commission should look to Section 706.”
  • David Cohen, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast, said, “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. This would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation, as today's immediate stock market reaction demonstrates. And such a radical reversal of consistent contrary precedent should be taken up by the Congress. The internet has not just appeared by accident or gift -- it has been built by companies like ours investing and building networks and infrastructure. The policy the White House is encouraging would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the Internet has generated.”
  • “President Obama agrees: consumers should pick winners and losers on the Internet, not broadband gatekeepers,” said Netflix.
  • “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly opposes President Obama’s call for the FCC to impose antiquated Title II regulations on broadband and reverse two decades of bi-partisan support for a lightly-regulated Internet,” the Chamber said in a statement. “As an independent agency, the FCC answers to Congress -- not the administration.”

  • Washington Responds to President Obama’s Network Neutrality Plan Obama Call for Internet Freedom a Game-changer (Sen Markey) Thune Statement on President’s Net Neutrality Announcement (Sen Thune) Ted Cruz just called net neutrality 'Obamacare for the internet' and that's bad news for everyone (The Verge – Sen Cruz) Cruz warns of 'ObamaCare for Internet' (The Hill – Sen Cruz) Hill Weighs In On President's Title II Plan (B&C) Committee Leaders Comment on President’s Support for Regulating the Internet as a Utility (House Commerce Committee GOP) Rep. Waxman Statement on President Obama's Support for Strong Net Neutrality Rules (Rep Waxman) Statement (Rep Eshoo) Tim Wu says Obama's net neutrality plan is "bold, courageous, and just obvious" (The Verge – Wu) Public Knowledge Commends Obama’s Commitment to Full Title II Open Internet Rules (Public Knowledge) President Obama Calls for Title II as the Best Way to Protect Real Net Neutrality (Free Press) The White House Gets It Right On Net Neutrality. Will the FCC? (EFF) Statement (Demand Progress) Benton Foundation Applauds President Obama's Net Neutrality Plan (Benton Foundation) AEI scholars’ statements on White House intervention in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding (AEI) http://www.techpolicydaily.com/uncategorized/eisenach-statement-white-house-intervention-fccs-open-internet-proceeding/ USTelecom Statement On Obama’s Call For Title II Regulation Of Internet (USTelecom) Statement (NCTA) Statement (AT&T) Statement (Verizon) Statement (Comcast) Netflix Backs Obama Call for Curbs on Internet Providers (Bloomberg – Netflix) Obama’s gone ‘old-school net neutrality’: A Tim Wu Q&A (Washington Post) Obama's net neutrality push cheers some, riles others (USAToday) Statement (Sen Rockefeller) Boehner, McConnell pan Internet push (The Hill) NHMC Commends President Obama for Standing with Millions of Consumers for Strong Network Neutrality Rules (NHMC) Chamber steps into Obama Web battle (The Hill – Chamber of Commerce)