Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz took to Facebook Monday to criticize President Obama for his support of net neutrality — a position Obama announced earlier in the day along with the suggestion that the Federal Communications Commission re-classify the Internet as a more-heavily regulated utility similar to telephone service.
“The biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is net neutrality,” Cruz wrote in a status update on the social network. “In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities, and higher prices for consumers.”
“The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
In a statement early Monday after almost a year of debate between federal courts, Internet content providers, Internet service providers (ISPs) and Internet users across the U.S. over the FCC’s proposal to both simultaneously regulate ISPs and allow them to establish fast and slow lanes of web traffic for higher and lower prices, Obama called on the FCC to “implement the strongest possible rules” against a tiered Internet.
“‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted,” Obama said. “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. 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: Obama Announces Support For Net Neutrality)
The president went on to suggest that the FCC re-classify standard and mobile broadband services as common-carrier utilities similar to telephone service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — a move that would grant government regulators greater authority in determining the minimum for Internet service speeds and pricing for consumers.
“To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past,” Obama said. “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call, or a packet of data.”
Obama’s message was met with a backlash of criticism from Internet industry representatives close to ISPs and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“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,” South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune said in a statement Monday. Thune is a ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “The president’s stale thinking would invite legal and marketplace uncertainty and perpetuate what has needlessly become a politically corrosive policy debate.”
“It is critical that the Internet remain open and that consumers are protected. As it crafts new rules, the FCC should recognize the benefits of its highly successful light-touch regulatory approach to Internet policy, and, most importantly, the FCC must follow the law.”
Interest groups in support of deregulation over ISPs cited concerns Monday that Obama’s statement both threatened the FCC’s status as an independent regulatory body and could prompt other countries to assert a greater degree of control over the Internet within their borders.
“[F]or the president to issue this directive is a threat to the independence of the FCC itself,” Broadband for America honorary co-chairs former Sen. John Sununu and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. said in a statement Monday. “By vastly expanding the regulatory bureaucracy over the internet, the administration is turning its back on 20 years of bipartisan consensus that has allowed the Internet to flourish.”
“Further, the president’s directive discredits U.S. efforts to prevent countries like Russia and China from destroying the current international multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and replacing it with government regulatory control. It is ironic that the president made his announcement while in China, which has long sought greater government control over the Internet and surely will be encouraged by the president’s statement.”
The Computer and Communications Industry Association — a non-profit representing computer, communications and Internet industry firms — applauded the president’s call for net neutrality.
“A groundswell of millions of comments supporting the open Internet is evidence of the importance of having effective rules preventing paid prioritization and discriminatory treatment,” CCIA CEO Ed Black said in a statement Monday. “Neither the FCC nor Internet access providers should any longer ignore the political urgency behind the support for Title II from the public, from the most innovative and competitive sectors of industry, and now clearly from the president.”
“The challenge now is for the FCC to act promptly and to make sure opponents of the open Internet don’t use complexity and confusion as tools to weaken this effort to issue new rules protecting the Internet.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday said the agency would include the president’s remarks in its official record as it continues to work on a plan to decide the issue.