When Barack Obama was running for president in 2007, he earned a great deal of credibility with tech-savvy voters by expressing support for net neutrality that was rooted in an understanding that this issue raises essential questions about the future of open, free and democratic communications in America.
Obama “got” that net neutrality represented an Internet-age equivalent of the First Amendment—a guarantee of equal treatment for all content, as opposed to special rights to speed and quality of service for the powerful business and political elites that can buy an advantage.
Asked whether he thought the Federal Communications Commission and Congress needed to preserve the Internet as we know it, the senator from Illinois said, “The answer is ‘yes.’ I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.”
“What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites,” explained Obama, who warned that with such a change in standards “you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites.”
Obama’s bottom line: “That I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”
Candidate Obama was exactly right.
So was President Obama when, in 2010, the White House declared that “President Obama is strongly committed to net neutrality in order to keep an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice, and free speech.”
And President Obama certainly sounded right in January 2014, when he said, “I have been a strong supporter of net neutrality. The new commissioner of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, whom I appointed, I know is a strong supporter of net neutrality.”
The president expressed that confidence in Wheeler, even as concerns were raised about an appointee who had previously worked as a cable and wireless industry lobbyist.
Now, barely three months after the president identified him as “a strong supporter of net neutrality,” Wheeler has rolled out a proposal that our most digitally engaged newspaper, The Guardian, delicately suggests would “axe-murder Net Neutrality.”
According to Los Angeles Times tech writer Jim Puzzanghera, the plan “would allow Internet service providers to charge companies for faster delivery of their content.”