President Obama waded forcefully into the intense debate about the future of the Internet on Monday, saying the federal government should prevent broadband companies from dictating access to the Web by, for example, charging content-makers higher fees for faster delivery to customers.
In a long-anticipated statement, Obama staked out an aggressive position in favor of Net neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. The issue has triggered a fierce political battle in Washington among titans of the technology industry and has sparked millions of Americans to inundate regulators with recommendations and concerns.
“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life,” Obama said in a video and statement issued by the White House. “We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”
One of the main concerns of Net neutrality advocates is that Internet providers would effectively set up so-called fast and slow lanes that would favor traffic that pays for speedier delivery, which would result in higher costs for that content or slower viewing speeds for non-paying traffic. - Boston Globe, 11/10/14
And even though their not in control yet, incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) and the GOP are already having a hissy fit:
“The growth of the Internet and the rapid adoption of mobile technology have been great American success stories, made possible by a light regulatory touch. This approach has freed innovators to develop and sell the products people want--and create jobs in the process--without waiting around for government permission. The President’s decision today to abandon this successful approach in favor of more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats is a terrible idea. The Commission would be wise to reject it.”
Background: Earlier this year McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership team--Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Conference Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee John Thune (R-South Dakota), Policy Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) -- sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the matter. - Chicago Sun-Times, 11/10/14
One of those GOP net neutrality foes is facing re-election in 2016:
GOP Senate leaders, including Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had sent a letter in May to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler saying there should be no “further legal contortions to encumber modern communications networks with last century’s rules.”
The GOP letter urged the FCC to “work with Congress to provide the proper regulatory procedures for the 21st century.”
After the president announced his actions Monday, Blunt issued a statement that said, in part: “The president’s call for Internet regulation hurts innovation, hampers job growth and is bad for consumers. Instead of circumventing Congress in favor of action by the executive branch, the president should listen to the American people who just spoke on Nov. 4 and demand that the administration work with Congress to enact policies that will get our country back on track.”
The Internet Association, which represents content providers including Netflix, Twitter, eBay and Google, applauded Obama’s proposal. - St. Louis Dispatch, 11/11/14
Now Blunt has tried to paint himself as someone who isn't a complete enemy of net neutrality:
“What does Net neutrality mean today?” asked U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. “This is one of those things that changes so quickly it’s really hard to have a legislative or regulatory solution.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Blunt’s Democratic colleague, also took both sides of the issue.
“My job is to make sure the FCC is using its authority responsibly and not jeopardizing the amazing growth of online commerce,” she said in an email, “while fully protecting everyone’s ability to access and use its potential fairly.”
In 2011, voting on a nonbinding Senate resolution, McCaskill supported FCC-imposed Net neutrality. Blunt opposed it.
In general, Democrats are more aggressive in their support for government-imposed Net neutrality.
“Network neutrality is a bedrock principle of the Internet,” said a statement from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Republicans generally support fewer regulations for Internet providers. - The Kansas City Star, 1/18/14
But here he is on his own website bragging about obstructing rules for an open internet:
U.S. Senate Republican leaders, including Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Whip John Cornyn (Texas), Conference Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee John Thune (S.D.), Policy Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo), Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (Mo.), and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (Kan.), today sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the Commission to abandon any efforts to impose so-called “net neutrality” regulations on the Internet.
In their letter, the senators underscore the “politically corrosive” nature of the FCC’s contemplated regulations, and urge the FCC to reject calls to impose Title II regulations on “the nation’s competitive and dynamic broadband economy.” The letter highlights the danger to the Internet of treating it as a government-regulated utility.
The Senate leaders say, “Rather than attempting further legal contortions to encumber modern communications networks with last century’s rules, the Commission should work with the Congress to develop clear statutory authority and direction for the agency so that it can be a productive regulator for the 21st century marketplace.”
The full leadership letter is included below.
May 13, 2014
The Honorable Thomas Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
We write to reiterate our strong concerns with any proposal that would have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) apply monopoly-era Title II regulations to our nation’s competitive and dynamic broadband economy.
The growth of the Internet and the rapid adoption of mobile technology have been great American success stories, made possible by a light regulatory touch for the entire online ecosystem. This approach has freed Internet innovators and users at the edge, the core, and the last mile to offer services, to build networks, and to buy and sell products based on market demand; no government permission has been necessary.
Imposing common carrier-style regulation upon any part of the Internet would be a dangerous rejection of this successful policy course, potentially impeding the development and adoption of new Internet technologies and services, and threatening future investment in next-generation broadband infrastructure.
The courts have twice struck down ill-advised and unauthorized attempts by the FCC to regulate the Internet. Unfortunately, you have chosen to have the FCC again undertake a politically corrosive rulemaking, relying upon new and untested court-defined powers rather than upon clear Congressional intent and statutory authority.
Of even greater concern would be using Title II of the Communications Act to regulate broadband, which some voices have called for in recent days. So-called “net neutrality” restrictions are unnecessary, but using Title II reclassification to impose them would create tremendous legal and marketplace uncertainty and would undermine your ability to effectively lead the FCC.
Rather than attempting further legal contortions to encumber modern communications networks with last century’s rules, the Commission should work with the Congress to develop clear statutory authority and direction for the agency so that it can be a productive regulator for the 21st century marketplace. If the Commission will not do that, we urge it to reject new “net neutrality” regulations, particularly any which rely upon Title II. - 5/13/14
While Missouri is a red state, past polling showed Blunt isn't particularly liked in his home state. He won in 2010 during a great year for Republicans but he's going to be running for re-election during a Presidential year. It remains to be seen is someone like Hillary Clinton can make Missouri competitive enough for Blunt to lose but I wouldn't take him out of the sight as a potential target in 2016. We shall see. In the mean time, click here to sign CREDO Action's petition thanking Obama for standing up for net neutrality: