This article is more than 1 year old

Prez Obama backs net neutrality – but can't do anything about it. Thanks, Obama

You're doing a heck of a job, Wheeley

In a visit to California, US President Obama has reiterated support for full net neutrality, but said it wasn't something he could do anything about.

"I know one of the things that people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the internet. That's something I'm opposed. I was opposed to it when I ran. I continue to be opposed to it now," he said.

"The FCC is an independent agency. My appointee, [FCC chairman] Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can't – now that he's there – I can't just call him up and tell him exactly what to do.

"But what I've been clear about, what the White House has been clear about is, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we're not creating two or three or four tiers of internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine."

Obama became friendly with Wheeler after the now-FCC chairman took a month off to help with the then-senator's primary campaign in 2008. Initially Obama appointed Julius Genachowski, a strong net neutrality advocate, to the FCC top dog position. When Genachowski stepped down, Wheeler – who was appointed to the Wireless Hall of Fame and the Cable Television Hall of Fame for his work as work as a lobbyist – got the job.

Wheeler says he's for net neutrality, too. Then he put forward a plan to allow ISPs to install fast lanes between subscribers and websites – after Verizon won a court case allowing it to charge companies for faster access to customers. Net neutrality campaigners, meanwhile, want all packets treated equally and without prejudice.

Since the FCC got involved in the debate, the public has been sending in its views on the matter; the vast majority of submitted comments are pro net neutrality. A decision by the watchdog on the future of network neutrality is pending.

Patently irritating

Obama was also quizzed on his plans for intellectual property reform. The president said it's tricky finding a balance between allowing people to benefit from their inventions while not stifling creativity – but he was firm in his stance against patent trolls.

"One of the biggest problems that we've been working on is how do we deal with these folks who basically are filing phony patents and are costing some of our best innovators tons of money in court; or if they don't go to court, they end up having to pay them off even though they're making a bogus claim just because it's not worth it for you to incur all the litigation costs," he said. ®

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