President Barack Obama put forth a more assertive stance on the issue of net neutrality on Tuesday, as he addressed African leaders at a summit in Washington. He stated point blank that his administration does not support the idea of Internet fast lanes. Most recently, the president had offered only a tepid response when asked about the issue, in spite of his earlier support for a free Internet.
During the summit, Obama said that the Internet is a great source of innovation, adding that creating fast lanes for some puts others at a disadvantage.
“One of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers,” Obama explained. “That’s the big controversy here. So you have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more and also charge more for spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster.”
He then added his own view on the subject, saying that “I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users. You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”
Although Obama didn’t explicitly say that he is against Internet fast lanes, his remarks imply that he is against paid prioritization, which would allow some companies to receive better service if they pay a fee. His statement flies directly in the face of the FCC’s current proposal, which will only bar Internet fast lanes if the agency deems them “commercially unreasonable.”
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has also said that Internet fast lanes and paid prioritization would be “commercially unreasonable.” As such, it’s clear that there is friction between the president, the FCC, and Wheeler, regarding the issue of net neutrality. It’s unknown how Obama’s latest remarks will affect the FCC’s actions.