The spirit of President Barack Obama's stance on the net neutrality debate resonates with those calling for the Internet to remain free and open, but the strategy on how to do so is being discounted as dated and potentially dangerous.
While the public comment period on the net neutrality debate ended long ago Obama has been using his position to periodically offer suggestions on how to prevent the Internet from being dominated by the highest of bidders. Ultimately, the rules governing the Internet structure will come from the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) chambers.
While Obama called for a cannibalization of existing laws to form a framework for new rules on net neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asserts reclassification and hybridization of legislation brings a considerable amount of legal questions.
"We found we would need more time to examine these to ensure that whatever approach is taken, it can withstand any legal challenges it may face," Wheeler says.
In Obama's latest statement on net neutrality, the president proposes cannibalizing Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
The new rules derived from Title II, the Common Carrier law, must build on lessons learned from the past, says Obama. Telecommunications laws should translate across platforms because that's just common sense, he says.
"To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act -- while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services," states Obama.
Wheeler points to the difficulties in re-purposing existing rules that avert privacy problems, facilitate universal application and address mobile Internet services.
A day before Obama reiterated his stance, former FCC chairman Michael Powell penned an opinion piece on the subject.
Powell, now the CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, states the use of Title II would give the government too much regulatory power, allowing it to potentially stamp out the spirit of the free market. Regardless of the form it takes on, Title II is bad for the Internet, Powell asserts.
"As a student of history, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler knows that great leaders look ahead, not backward," Powell states. "The road to the future is clear and not lined with outdated regulations."