This was the wording on the petition presented to the White House to urge President Obama to direct the FCC to classify ISPs as “common carriers” so that net neutrality could be maintained.
On January 14, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s open internet rules, commonly known as “Net Neutrality” because ISPs are not classified as “common carriers”. This ruling allows ISPs to charge companies for access to its users and charge users for access to certain services. Fewer companies will be able to afford access for innovative ideas and products.
We urge the President to direct the FCC to classify ISPs as “common carriers” so that the words of the FCC chairman may be fulfilled: “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
The White House responded as follows (emphasis mine):
Thank you to everyone who has signed on to this petition in support of a free and open Internet. Since his days as a United States Senator, President Obama has embraced the principle of net neutrality. As the President recently noted, his campaign for the White House was empowered by an open Internet; it allowed millions of supporters to interact with the President and each other in unprecedented fashion. That experience helped give rise to the creation of this very platform — the We The People website — where Americans can express their opinions on any topic and receive a response from the White House. Rights of free speech, and the free flow of information, are central to our society and economy — and the principle of net neutrality gives every American an equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in both. Indeed, an open Internet is an engine for freedom around the world.
Preserving an open Internet is vital not just to the free flow of information, but also to promoting innovation and economic productivity. Because of its openness, the Internet has allowed entrepreneurs — with just a small amount of seed money or a modest grant — to take their innovative ideas from the garage or the dorm room to every corner of the Earth, building companies, creating jobs, improving vital services, and fostering even more innovation along the way.
Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries. The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide.
A wide spectrum of stakeholders and policymakers recognize the importance of these principles. In the wake of last month’s court decision, it was encouraging to hear major broadband providers assert their commitment to an open Internet.
It was also encouraging to see Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom the President appointed to that post last year, reaffirm his commitment to a free and open Internet and pledge to use the authority granted by Congress to maintain a free and open Internet. The White House strongly supports the FCC and Chairman Wheeler in this effort.
The petition asked that the President direct the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as “common carriers” which, if upheld, would give the FCC a distinct set of regulatory tools to promote net neutrality. The FCC is an independent agency. Chairman Wheeler has publicly pledged to use the full authority granted by Congress to maintain a robust, free and open Internet — a principle that this White House vigorously supports.
Gene Sperling is Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Todd Park is the United States Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President.
Notice the vague language and double-talk? Also notice how the FCC is identified as an independent agency as if the President has no power to direct what it does, yet the president appoints the head of said “independent” agency? So which is it? Does the President have a say in it or doesn’t he?
We need to be raising a stink.