Last month, the United States Court of Appeals abolished “Net Neutrality,” a set of rules for Internet service providers to follow, principally that all data is equal, in order to keep the Internet as unrestricted as possible. This is largely because Internet Service Providers (ISP) were not classified as “common carriers.” The very next day, a petition was started on the White House’s “We the People” website, demanding that President Obama direct the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify ISPs so that Net Neutrality can be restored, preventing the possibility of ISPs abusing their power. Today, a White House representative responded to the successful petition, voicing their support and addressing the concerns of the public with regards to the Internet without Net Neutrality.
The response was written by two assistants to the president, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling and the United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. It states that President Obama has supported a free and open Internet policy since long before being elected to his current position as POTUS. His support is shown in the creation of the We the People website, where Americans (and citizens of countries all around the world, in fact) have the ability to have contact and influence over the government’s actions like never before. This would have never been possible without Net Neutrality.
One of the concerns addressed by the White House representatives, Sperling and Park, with regards to the petition for Net Neutrality were that ISPs may take their new freedom to start restricting data as they see fit or charging exorbitant rates for particular websites. Verizon, in particular, has already been in the spotlight because of the outcry from their subscribers for allegedly restricting the flow of data from Netflix. In principle, the idea would be that if people wanted to get high quality streaming from Netflix, they would have to pay extra to their ISP in order to have the data unrestricted or Netflix would have to pay the ISP to guarantee that their website’s data would be unrestricted, thereby making a profit off of Netflix’s popularity.
Additionally, the assistants to the president wrote about how important the Internet is for innovation and entrepreneurship; without Net Neutrality, new online startups could see a heavy loss in traffic and profit because their data is not being treated with as much priority as, for instance, companies who pay the various Internet service providers to always provide top-tier service when users access their website. Only the most popular websites, websites that make enough money to pay for the extra data charges, would be able to thrive in this online environment. Internet usage would be discouraged and so would all the creativity and innovation that happens because of the Internet.
When Net Neutrality was struck down, the judge provided advice to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to restrict the power of Internet service providers within the confines of the rules that would extend to them the way they stood previously. Wheeler stated that he fully intended to do just that. However, the WhiteHouse.gov petition suggested that ISPs be reclassified completely rather than attempting to formulate new rules and restrictions that would be less effective. In the White House’s address of the petition, President Obama shows his full support of the idea to allow the FCC to reclassify ISPs as “common carriers,” thereby reinstating Net Neutrality as it was before its abolition.
By Robin Syrenne