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Obama Asks FCC to Defend Net Neutrality

(CN) - Urging the Federal Communications Commission to protect net neutrality on Monday, President Barack Obama called a free and open internet "one of the greatest gifts our economy - and our society - has ever known."

The announcement comes some six months after the FCC requested public comment about applying Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Title II of the Communications Act to broadband Internet companies.

The D.C. Circuit ruled in January that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband Internet companies because the agency had not classified broadband providers as "common carriers" like a phone company or other utility, subject to telecommunications regulations. Instead, it called them "information services."

Without FFC regulation, a service provider such as Verizon could prevent an Internet user from accessing any webpage or significantly slow down service, unless that website paid the provider to allow customer access.

The FCC received almost 4 million public comments on the issue.

Obama said Monday: "'Net neutrality' has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation - but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas."

He also noted the important role a neutral Internet has played in fostering innovation in the tech field.

"Investment in wired and wireless networks has supported jobs and made America the center of a vibrant ecosystem of digital devices, apps, and platforms that fuel growth and expand opportunity," Obama said.

Though the president's opinion has no authority on the FCC's final decision, he urged the agency to implement the "strongest possible rules" to protect "an open, accessible, and free Internet."

In response to Obama's statement, Verizon issued a reply, saying: "Verizon supports the open Internet, and we continue to believe that the light-touch regulatory approach in place for the past two decades has been central to the Internet's success. Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation."

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