Earlier this week, President Barack Obama publicly announced his support of net neutrality, the idea that the Internet should be regulated equally, devoid of discrimination of user, website or country of origin.
“Ever since the Internet was created, it was organized around a basic principle of openness, fairness and freedom,” Obama said. “There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no toll roads on the information superhighway.”
Some Internet service providers, such as Comcast or Verizon, have a vision for creating “Internet fast-lanes,” which would allow corporations to provide faster or slower speeds depending on which websites paid for that service and factors like location and how much users pay.
Although Obama has no direct authority over the Federal Communications Commission, he addressed it in a public statement, suggesting it establish new policies directed at net neutrality.
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
This was met with partisan criticism, most notably from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who issued a tweet following President Obama’s statement on net neutrality.
“Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,” Cruz tweeted.
Reporters and critics pointed out that Cruz’s perception of how the internet works is misguided and misinformed. Cruz then wrote an op-ed piece titled “Regulating the Internet threatens entrepreneurial freedom” in Politico, further emphasizing his opinion.
On Wednesday, Obama created an online petition, set up by the administration to show support for his stance, to give to the FCC.
This type of petition and organization in terms of Internet rights was also showcased in 2012, when millions of Internet users became activists in opposition to the “Stop Online Piracy Act.” If passed, it would have allowed law enforcement to combat online piracy and copyright infringement. It also would have allowed domain names to be deleted and block access to websites, which opponents claimed offended First Amendment rights and was censorship.
Internet companies like Google and Wikipedia, along with their users, quickly rallied in opposition, which was an influence in the bill not passing.
“The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known,” Obama said. “In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible and free Internet.”