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Obama comes out for net neutrality, and against Comcast?

November 14th, 2014

In his first major move since the midterm elections, Barack Obama has made a profound statement on the future of the internet on WhiteHouse.Gov, from both a video and written statement.

At on Monday, Obama released the following:

An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.

Comcast has responded just how you might think, reported on by

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts may have come to San Francisco to show off a new service designed to make Comcast cable TV look and feel more like the internet. But he knew that the Silicon Valley press corps would be more interested in something else.

“Something like Title II, maybe?” he said, before launching into his extended demo of X1, the internet-based version of cable that Comcast is starting to roll out to US customers. Title II is a once-obscure section of a 1934 law that has become the center of the battle over the future of the internet and that elusive ideal known as net neutrality.

On Monday, the White House released a statement in which President Obama expressed support for reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II, making internet access more like long distance or mobile phone service. In the president’s view, reclassification is what’s needed to ensure net neutrality—an open internet where all traffic is treated equally. But Comcast sees things a little differently.

Roberts believes the debate has been framed in the wrong way. People assume that if you’re for net neutrality, you’re also Title II, he says. But he sees them a very separate things. Comcast believes in net neutrality, but not in Title II, he says, arguing that Title II would slow the expansion of the internet.

Roberts didn’t go so far as AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson did on Wednesday. In a statement that responded to the president’s, Stephenson said AT&T was halting its build-out of high-speed internet connections in 100 US cities until the company knew what rules would govern those connections. But Roberts’ message was clear: “uncertainty” under Title II could mean less money spent on better connections.

Instead of courting that risk, the subtext of Roberts’ presentation seemed to be: don’t worry so much. We support an open internet. We’ve got a cool new interface for cable that integrates Twitter and IFTTT. It has voice control, new options for binge-watching, even sophisticated new audio navigation for blind users. Consumers want TV to work more like the Internet, and we listened. You want innovation? Here it is.

More change than that, it seems, is not the kind Comcast can believe in.

Categories: DISH & TV news

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