Surprising many industry observers, President Obama did not make a big deal about broadband in his State of the Union address to the nation Tuesday night.
Instead, Obama, who had been making much noise about new broadband mandates in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union, touched very lightly and indirectly about his promotion of much stronger net neutrality rules for ISPs. And he made no mention of Title II, the much-debated section of the Communications Act under which he'd like to see broadband providers classified like utilities.
Rather than reiterate his fervent public support for such proposed mandates as stricter net neutrality regulations, Title II regulatory treatment of ISPs and federal preemption of state bans on municipal broadband networks, Obama kept his language broad and sweeping in an inspirational speech that was generally free of specific plans and proposals. In fact, he managed to sum up his broadband and Internet policies in one long sentence about halfway through his hour-long address, describing it as one of more than a dozen components of his "middle-class economics" program for the rest of his presidency.
"I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks," the president said, "so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping the world."
Obama's latest speech came as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is weighing several proposals to implement his vision, including federal preemption of state laws that ban or restrict municipal broadband builds, a much higher national standard (25 Mbit/s downstream) for broadband service and, most controversially, the potential reclassification of ISPs under the much more regulatory restrictive Title II section. Under the direction of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Commission plans to vote on all three proposals over the next five weeks. (See Obama Backs Net Neutrality, Stuns Industry.)
At the same time, the new Congress, which just took office a couple of weeks ago, has already taken up the always heated debate over Internet and broadband regulation. Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have begun tangling over a new Republican-backed bill that would prevent online blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization of "fast lanes" but curb the FCC's powers to promote broadband deployment and adoption.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading