Blog Post

President Supports Net Neutrality


The FCC is getting closer to making a big decision on net neutrality! President Obama recently weighed in on net neutrality and is in favor of net neutrality. In this Daily Brown Bag, we cover Obama’s positions on net neutrality and the Internet. You’ll also learn which large companies support or are against net neutrality, where Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, stands on the issue, and how net neutrality has been heating up!

Also available on YouTube.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today, we're talking net neutrality. I'm Chad Hill, and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good afternoon, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. Chad, we've covered this issue of net neutrality a bit before. It's heating up, because the FCC is getting closer to making a big decision on how it's going to rule on net neutrality.

Recently, President Obama weighed in on the issue, net neutrality, in a pretty big way. He said he was in favor of net neutrality and took a few positions that we want to cover here today. He said specifically that he believes Internet providers should not be allowed to designate a fast versus a slow lane of the Internet. He's viewing Internet service as critical to the public and is putting it in the same category these days in this modern age as being as critical as electricity or a telephone. He wants strict rules in place that would prevent ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to specific sites. Furthermore, he wants wired and wireless services to be viewed as this public utility.

Coming out and saying these things, Chad, pretty much aligns the White House with a lot of the activists who've been out there worried that big business was going to step in and start controlling the Internet and some other big companies who are in line with the activists, such as Google and Microsoft. They also want ISPs reclassified as a public utility. This would be done, interestingly, under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. It's not new legislation here but an updated interpretation based on the modern usage of the Internet.

Of course, on the other side, there's a lot of debate on net neutrality. On the other side you have big providers like Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon. They say they want to support an open Internet free from any government interference. They fear that the classification will limit their ability to package and sell their services efficiently. It's the free market argument we've heard. Of course, we hear that it will stifle innovation if they don't feel they can make profits without government interference. That's certainly an argument on that side, the side against net neutrality.

Where do we think this is going, Chad?

I think, Adam, as you were saying, it kind of reminded me of that segment that went totally viral that John Oliver did about net neutrality. If you haven't seen it, check it out. It was really great going back and forth and showing all these snippets of people talking about net neutrality and how most people have a hard time getting their head around it. It does matter.

Here are a couple of things to know about net neutrality. The President doesn't get a vote. It is interesting when you see the President coming out. You think, doesn't the President get to pick the FCC? It turns out that he does get to place people on the FCC. In fact, the chairman, Tom Wheeler, was an Obama appointee, but he's also a cable lobbyist.

I think what that means is Wheeler does think the Internet should remain open but has stopped short of specifics. We know how that kind of political talk works sometimes, Adam. Someone agrees with the populace, but under the covers things aren't quite what they seem. He said that Wheeler is looking for a compromise when it comes to net neutrality. He's looking to support the needs of the cable and big providers of ISP services, but also to keep the Internet open.

This is where it's really interesting. It was interesting because the FCC got to reopen this up for comments and got 3.7 million comments. Sunlight Foundation did analyze all of those comments and said that two-thirds, and we actually covered this in the Brown Bag, support strong rules to maintain net neutrality. Basically, it revealed that about 99% of the public supports net neutrality. It's sort of confounding in some ways that the President can say go with net neutrality, the chairman of the FCC sort of says he hears everyone saying this - the President and the people, yet this thing is not really close. You never know what's going to come out of this regulatory process.

I think why it matters to us is this really will dictate how the future of the Internet works for consumers and for content providers. People who are looking to get a start and getting their content around the web, this will matter.

There's one final thing here, a very interesting article that was on VentureBeat where one of the founders of Fiverr came out and wrote a nice guest blog post. Some of the things he talked about were remembering back, most people don't remember this, to when I.E. had 90% of the browser share. It successfully shut down Netscape or drove Netscape to a very low market share. Their world view of the Internet wasn't quite as open as I think it's become with all the APIs and more open standards that work across lots and lots of platforms.

There are many examples. That's probably one of the more recent ones where you want an open system, and people more and more trust the openness of the Internet, and the fact that we can rely on all these different data sources and moving information around very quickly and easily, Big Data. That stuff could get riskier, Adam, if net neutrality goes down in a way that gives people what they think they want but isn't truly net neutrality. I'm still confused myself. We'll see where this goes.

Yeah, there's no doubt that there are big dollars at stake here, Chad. We will definitely continue to cover net neutrality. The analogy with Netscape and Internet Explorer is a very interesting one. Stay tuned to this one.

We love to hear your comments about net neutrality. Please drop us a line. While you're at it, subscribe, so we can see you here tomorrow. Have a great afternoon.