President Obama thinks there should be no gatekeepers between you and the Internet. Adding his voice to the 3.9 million comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the past six months, the president urged the agency to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” including a ban on prioritization or blockage of service to different websites based on payment or other reasons.
As he explains in his video and official statement, Obama believes “an entrepreneur’s fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student’s blog shouldn’t be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.”
Obama’s stance will be welcomed by many edtech entrepreneurs who filed concerns about a “two-tiered” Internet in July. As edtech watchdog Jessy Irwin argues in “Why Net Neutrality Matters to Education,” allowing companies to pay for faster speeds “could effectively create a new kind of digital divide among students.”
Obama’s statement falls in line with the position held by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Although Mr. Wheeler was appointed by Obama, the FCC, with a budget controlled by Congress, does not answer to the president. Obama’s statement was met with support from other Democrats and online content providers like Netflix and Google, while Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the statement as asking for “more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation”--and perhaps lower the stock prices of Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which dipped 3.4% after Obama’s announcement.
Unsurprisingly, political name-calling reared its ugly head. Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that net neutrality would be “Obamacare for the Internet,” which in turn prompted this comic by popular web artist Matthew Inman (aka “The Oatmeal”), which playfully sketches out why net neutrality is “something that liberals, conservatives, sinners and saints” can get behind.