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President calls for “open and free” internet through “net neutrality”

computer dataWASHINGTON – In the words of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the federal government “is in the process of considering whether to adopt rules that would regulate the Internet” and, not surprisingly, Republicans are mostly at odds with President Obama on how to regulate the flow of information over the vast network.

Net neutrality has become the catchphrase for the free and open delivery of web sites and data over the internet. In essence, the phrase means that all websites and data should and must be treated equally by internet service providers with no hidden or outright fees for special consideration.

According to President Obama, “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. 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.

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.

The FCC is an independent agency, the President said, and “ultimately this decision is theirs alone. I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use every day, and that some ISPs already observe.”

These bright-line rules include:

  • No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
  • No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
  • Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
  • No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.President Obama said these rules “mean everything for preserving the Internet’s openness.”
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley said in September that “The FCC is in the process of considering whether to adopt rules that would regulate the Internet,” and as a Republican, usually falls on the side of less regulation.

“Many – including myself – are highly skeptical about the prospect of expansive FCC regulation over every aspect of the Internet. The Internet has been so successful precisely because of a hands-off approach.”

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz

Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz blasted the President’s plan this week via his Facebook page, saying “the biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is ‘net neutrality.’

“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.”

A Ted Cruz follower posted the following reply to the Senator’s critique:

“Net Neutrality means everything is equal. Imagine you turn on your water faucet every day, and the water comes pouring out as it should. That would be Water Neutrality. Now one day, you turn on the faucet and a slow trickle comes out….you ask your neighbor if his water is OK, and he says yes, so you call the water company and they say, sorry, sir, but we are restricting your access to water. But if you want to pay us more money, we will un-restrict you. That’s what the internet providers want to do — to slow down your access to Netflix and other high-bandwidth companies, so they can extract more money from Netflix. Net neutrality is what we have now — all data is created equal. Water neutrality — all water is equal.”

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