Net Neutrality-Defender Barack Obama Missing in Action

Activists in front of the FCC on Thursday demanding an open Internet. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)

Net Neutrality-Defender Barack Obama Missing in Action

Following much-criticized FCC proposal advanced Thursday, president who said "he would take back seat to no one' on net neutrality is nowhere to be found.

As a president who has professed to be a staunch supporter of net neutrality, Obama must voice his opposition to the proposal just advanced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a group advocating for an open Internet charges.

On Thursday, the Commission voted for a proposal that, as Michael Weinberg, Vice President at Public Knowledge, stated, "falls well short of real net neutrality rules. It would create a two-tier internet where 'commercially reasonable' discrimination is allowed on any connections that exceed an unknown 'minimum level of access' defined by the FCC."

"A two-tier internet is anathema to a truly open internet," he added.

Former FCC chairman Michael Copps, now a special adviser to advocacy group Common Cause, expressed similar disappointment, issuing a statement that "The FCC could have moved decisively to guarantee that the Internet remains an open platform for free expression and the exchange of democracy-sustaining communications."

"Instead, the Commission again left broadband users without the protections they deserve," Copps stated.

These open Internet protections are ones Obama has openly said he vowed to support. For example, in 2007 the then-senator pledged that he would make net neutrality a priority, saying he was a "strong supporter" of the principle, and that having a two-tiered Internet "destroys one of the best things about the Internet--which is that there is this incredible equality there." And in 2008, as President-elect, he said, "I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality."

But his emphatic support was not present following the FCC vote yesterday; rather, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement on Thursday reading, in part:

The FCC is an independent agency, and we will carefully review their proposal. The FCC's efforts were dealt a real challenge by the Court of Appeals in January, but Chairman Wheeler has said his goal is to preserve an open Internet, and we are pleased to see that he is keeping all options on the table. We will be watching closely as the process moves forward in hopes that the final rule stays true to the spirit of net neutrality.

The President is looking at every way to protect a free and open Internet, and will consider any option that might make sense.

This statement from the White House is "clearly not enough," Timothy Karr, Senior Director of Strategy at Free Press, a group that has long-advocated for net neutrality, told Common Dreams.

It's true that the the FCC is technically an independent agency, Karr said. "However, Obama has been outspoken on numerous occasions," including comments regarding the type of discrimination his FCC Chairman Wheeler is proposing.

"If he wants to hold to his pledge to uphold an open Internet," Karr continued, "he's going to have to speak up against Wheeler's proposals."

Several open Internet-defending groups, including reddit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press, have provided tools to help users submit their comments to the FCC during the public comment period to maintain pressure on the agency to preserve net neutrality.

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