Obama Urges FCC For Strict Set Of Net Neutrality Rules

President Obama said Monday he fully supports the idea of having a free and open Internet, asking that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implement "the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."

In a written statement and video posted to the White House web site Monday, Obama urged the FCC not to let cable companies or Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Verizon or Comcast, charge companies to have their content delivered at faster speeds.

"We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas," Obama said. "That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."

[Related: MSP Fears: Net Neutrality Rules Could Stifle Innovation, Hurt Small Businesses]

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Obama specifically urged the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a move that would lead to internet services being treated and regulated like any other public utility, such as telephone services or electricity.

"In plain English, I'm asking [the FCC] to recognize that for most Americans, the internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life," Obama said in the video.

Obama also asked the FCC to implement rules that would prevent ISPs from being able to intentionally slow down content or speed up others -- a process known as "throttling" -- based on the type of service. He also shot down the idea of ISPs providing Internet "fast lines" to content providers who pay a fee.

"That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth," Obama said in the statement.

Obama's formal support of net neutrality Monday reignited a long-running debate over the extent to which the government should be able to regulate ISPs.

The FCC has been attempting to finalize a new set of rules regarding net neutrality for months. The organization originally expected to finalize those rules by the end of the year, but said earlier this month they might be delayed until 2015, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Obama in his statement noted that the FCC is an independent agency, and the net neutrality decision is ultimately "theirs alone."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday the FCC welcomes Obama's statements and also believes in a free and open Internet. However, Wheeler said, the idea of reclassifying broadband services still raises "substantive legal questions."

"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," Wheeler said in a statement.

Proponents of net neutrality took to Twitter Monday to applaud Obama's stance:

The President is right. must adopt a strong rule to keep the Internet free and open.

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Verizon, however, was quick to disagree. While the telecom giant issued a statement saying it "supports the open Internet," it also said the reclassification of broadband services under Title II "would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet" and "be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation."

Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla.-based ShoreTel partner and managed services provider, said he sees both sides to the net neutrality argument. At the end of the day, however, he said he would be on board with Internet "fast lanes" if it meant a guaranteed high performance for hosted enterprise services.

"I'd be personally in favor of higher fee services over the internet with guaranteed quality," Gulling said. "That would be fantastic."