Obama Goes Bold on Net Neutrality, Calls for Public Utility (video)

Net neutrality protesters confront FCC chair Tom Wheeler at his house.
Net neutrality protesters confront FCC chair Tom Wheeler at his house.
Net neutrality protesters confront FCC chair Tom Wheeler at his house.

President Thomas Jefferson valued a free press so much that he believed newspapers should be delivered free to all citizens, so they could be informed voters. How far we have fallen from our originals ideal of a “free press”. Corporate newspapers have dwindled in size and stature, thanks to the advertising-driven business model. Some newspapers are little more than collections of press releases, wire service stories, and display ads– with little or no original local content. They have devolved into corporate rags– far from the ideal of a “free” press.

As corporate news has degenerated, the Internet, with its egalitarian, free-range news and information, has thrived. (Yes, of course, the Internet has contributed to the demise of print media, but corporate decisions fueled the downfall.) For example, you can read stories on this blog that no corporate media outlet would ever print.

With an Internet connection, you get it all– the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the brilliant, the stupid, the lies, and the truth. It is your job to sort through it and read what you want.

Telecom companies really want to stop all of that free information and free thought. They want to be able to charge big users– like Google, Amazon, Facebook– more money for a “fast lane”. They would push more corporate (paid) content our way and push other content– like blogs and non-corporate websites– to a “slow lane” or block them completely. (Good background here.) In other words, if the telecom companies win the net neutrality battle, good luck finding voices that don’t promote the corporate news and ideas.

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced his support for making the Internet a public utility. This is huge.

In his video address above, Obama calls for the “strongest possible rules” to protect net neutrality, saying that he wants to keep it “free and open” for everyone. He also acknowledges what all activists already know, “The Internet is a powerful force for change, and as long as I’m president that’s what I will be fighting for.”

From the Huffington Post

He’s [Obama] backing a proposal that would reclassify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, treating the service as a public utility. Under that section, it’s illegal “to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.”

Obama is also asking for a ban on paid prioritization, a practice that allows companies to put service in the “slow lane” if a content provider doesn’t pay a fee.

“If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it,” Obama’s statement said. “Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others … based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.”

Obama’s plan won’t be popular with telecom companies, but it has wide support from the U.S. public, which submitted to the FCC almost 4 million comments overwhelmingly in favor of net neutrality this summer. [Emphasis added.]

The crux of the problem is that early in 2014 a Federal Appeals Court struck down the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibiting telecom companies from blocking or prioritizing content delivered to consumers. The FCC chief Tom Wheeler, who is a former telecom lobbyist, has hinted that he would compromise on net neutrality and allow telecom companies to make deals.

During the 2014 election season, it was crystal clear that the oligarchy owns corporate TV and newspaper media– in more ways than one. Big corporations not only “own” multiple media companies; they control the content, the messaging, and the dark money to flood us with lies disguised as advertising.

Now they want to control our only “free press”– the Internet.

As soon as he heard of Obama’s populist stance on saving net neutrality, corporate lapdog Texas Senator Ted Cruz called net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet.” (Grrr…) Put it simply, who are you going to believe– Cruz or 4 million citizens who still believe that information should be freely available and not edited by big corporations?

Listen up, people, we need net neutrality, and that’s why 4 million Americans logged onto the FCC website and urged them to save the Internet and keep it free and open. We must stay vigilant on this issue. Check out net neutrality protesters at Wheeler’s house on Monday, video here.

UPDATE: Since this post was published both  Amy Goodman on Democracy Now and Diane Rehm on NPR have aired shows on net neutrality. Here are the links.

Obama Calls for Net Neutrality, But His Own Industry-Tied FCC Appointee Could Stand in the Way

The Ongoing Debate Over Net Neutrality


  1. I’m concerned that Obama knows he can’t fire Wheeler if he defies the President. That gives Obama the freedom to say it however boldly he wants, knowing that Wheeler can do whatever he wants.

    To the point about firing Wheeler, I think back to case law cited during the special action in Arizona Supreme Court when Brewer went off half-cocked and tried to fire IRC chair Colleen Mathis.

    See pages 15-16 of this amicus brief that was filed in AIRC v Brewer & Pearce in November 2011

    If Obama fires Wheeler, Big Telecom will certainly sue Obama over it.

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