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Obama praises FCC's vote on Net Neutrality, Verizon yearns for the old days of Clinton and Bush

December 21, 2010 | 12:09 pm


The so-called Net Neutrality vote went along party lines to the delight of President Obama and the apparent dismay of Verizon, which yearned for the good old days. The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to prevent land-line Internet providers like Comcast and TimeWarner from blocking access to sites. However, it said that wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon could limit some applications and services.

The three Democrats on the FCC outvoted the two Republicans on the controversial, and yet-to-be-published new rules that would prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against legal content. This is particularily of concern when phone and cable companies attempt to slow down or block websites or applications that may compete with their core products.

For example phone companies that are Internet providers cannot interfere with legal Web alternatives its customers want to use, such as Skype; likewise, cable companies that provide Internet access cannot slow down the connection speed of its customers when they access sites like Netflix.

Times staff writer Jim Puzzanghera explained that "Democrats, online activists and large Internet companies such as Google Inc. have pressed for tough rules to guarantee continued open access to the Internet. President Obama was an early supporter of net neutrality and made it part of his 2008 campaign.

"But Republicans, free-market advocates and telecommunications providers have strongly opposed net neutrality regulations, contending that they aren’t needed and could damage the Internet economy. Still, AT&T Inc. has said the FCC rules are less restrictive than what many advocates have called for and that it could support them as a way of reducing the uncertainty about what the commission might do."

Obama welcomed the FCC's vote. His reaction and that of Verizon after the jump...

The President delivered this statement Tuesday from The White House:

Today’s decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech. Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

As a candidate for President, I pledged to preserve the freedom and openness that have allowed the Internet to become a transformative and powerful platform for speech and expression. That’s a pledge I’ll continue to keep as President. As technology and the market continue to evolve at a rapid pace, my Administration will remain vigilant and see to it that innovation is allowed to flourish, that consumers are protected from abuse, and that the democratic spirit of the Internet remains intact.

I congratulate the FCC, its Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and Congressman Henry Waxman for their work achieving this important goal today.

Verizon, however, seemed less than impressed with the limits the FCC agreed to put on big corporations like itself. From their statement:

Although we share with the FCC the overarching goals of an open Internet, we are deeply concerned by today’s 3-2 decision.  The FCC’s majority breaks with years of bipartisan communications policies that recognized that Internet innovation and investment -– and the jobs they create -– thrive without government intervention. There is no doubt that the policies put in place by the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration to jumpstart innovation and the spread of broadband worked.  As a result, America’s broadband and Internet marketplace is intensely competitive and an engine of economic growth, job creation and multibillion-dollar investment. Today’s decision, however, unnecessarily departs from these successful policies.  

While it will take some time for us to analyze the FCC’s rules and the order once they are released, the FCC’s decision apparently reaches far beyond the net neutrality rules it announced today. Based on today’s announcement, the FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself. This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors. In the long run, that is harmful to consumers and the nation.

-- Tony Pierce

Photo: Federal Communications Commission members, from left, Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, Chairman Julius Genachowski, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker deliver opening remarks before voting 3-2 to adopt controversial Net neutrality rules Tuesday in Washington. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images