Obama, FCC Chairman ‘On the Same Page’ Regarding Net Neutrality

“The president and I have always agreed on the importance of an open Internet,” Tom Wheeler says

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
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Days after President Obama used a Santa Monica, California, appearance to reiterate his strong support of net neutrality, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler confirmed that he and the president are “on the same page.”

However, at an FCC press conference on Friday, Wheeler suggested his agreement with the president on key net neutrality issues represents no change of position and stressed that he also shares Obama’s concerns.

“On the important question of paid prioritization and opportunity that is created by the Internet, the president and I are in agreement and always have been,” Wheeler said.

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Last week during an appearance at Cross Campus, Obama expressed concern that without FCC action on net neutrality, Internet service providers could dramatically alter competition and create a fast lane for favored content providers. “My appointee Tom Wheeler knows my position,” he said.

Some have suggested that Obama’s words will increase pressure on the FCC to toughen open Internet rules it earlier proposed.

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“There has been a lot of interpretation about what the president said last week,” Wheeler said Friday, expressing the importance of an open Internet to create as he called, “the next Google or Facebook.”

Earlier this year, the FCC proposed open Internet rules that contained no ban on paid prioritization. Wheeler noted at the time he expressed concerns about paid prioritization’s effect and asked for comments about whether the FCC needed to do more.

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Wheeler said, “The president said he is opposed to paid prioritization. When we rolled out the [proposal], I said, ‘If paid prioritization hurts or is anti-competitive or anti-consumer or anti-innovative or degrades the network, it is dead on arrival.’”

The FCC chairman said he also earlier expressed concerns about another issue the president mentioned last week.

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“The president went on to say, ‘We are not creating two or three or four tiers of the Internet,’” Wheeler said. “At the meeting where we [offered the opening Internet proposal], I said, ‘The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers is unacceptable.’”

Wheeler added that while he understands Obama’s concerns, he has had no direct conversation with the president about them, explaining that the FCC informs the White House of its deliberations just like it informs members of Congress.