Let’s say President Barack Obama gets his way and high-speed Internet service providers are governed by the same US regulations imposed on telephone companies 80 years ago.
Depending on whom you listen to, the rules could unleash future innovation and create jobs – or stifle innovation and kill jobs. The divisive and often confusing debate has intensified now that Obama has entered the fray.
Obama’s stance is meant to protect “net neutrality,” the concept that everyone with an Internet connection should have equal access to all legal content online. The idea served as one of the Internet’s building blocks, but its fate has been in limbo since January, when a court ruling invalidated Federal Communications Commission guidelines designed to treat all online traffic equally.
The FCC has already been working on a new regulatory framework and is under no legal obligation to heed Obama’s call. Nevertheless, Obama’s opinion turns up the political heat on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other commissioners who will make the final decision. The FCC isn’t under a deadline to make a decision.