Obama Calls for 'Strongest Possible' Net Neutrality

Releases Video Prefaced by a 'Buffering' Joke

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President Barack Obama called Monday for the "strongest possible rules" to protect the open internet, saying there shouldn't be "fast lanes" and that high-speed service should be regulated.

Telecommunications companies oppose regulating internet service, and shares of Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, two cable companies that sell broadband service, fell at least 6% today.

Mr. Obama asked for no blocking of websites, no slowing of internet content, and no deals that let companies pay for faster delivery of their content. His appointee to the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, has been considering a plan that allows the possibility of so-called fast lanes.

"I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization," Mr. Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

Mr. Wheeler has been considering plans that mix the utility-style regulation Obama advocates with weaker regulatory powers. The agency is writing new regulations to replace rules struck down by a court. More than 3.7 million people have written to the agency about the new rules.

Broadband companies led by AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast have told the FCC not to use the utility-style regulations, which they say will squelch investment.

'Radical reversal'
Obama's proposal "would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation," Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. "That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court."

The president's plan "would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry" and would undermine mobile providers' ability "to invest and innovate," Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, with members including AT&T and Verizon, said in an e-mailed statement.

The FCC didn't have an immediate reaction, said Kim Hart, a spokeswoman.

Mr. Obama in his statement said the the FCC is an independent agency, "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," Mr. Obama said.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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