White House defers to FCC chief on net neutrality

The White House said Tuesday that it still supports net neutrality but will defer to the Federal Communications Commission as to how exactly to uphold those principles.

In response to an online White House petition with more than 105,000 signatures, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said the Obama administration has been encouraged by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's commitments to reinstate the agency's net neutrality rules, which were struck down in federal court earlier this year.

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The FCC's net neutrality rules prevented Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain bandwidth-heavy websites, such as Netflix.

The White House petition that prompted Tuesday's response asked the White House to direct the FCC to reclassify companies that provide Internet access so that they can be more easily regulated, similar to the way traditional telephone companies are regulated.

"The FCC is an independent agency," Park and Sperling wrote. "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."

The White House response reiterated the administration's support for net neutrality and said it "strongly supports the FCC and Chairman Wheeler" as he decides how to respond to last month's court decision overturning the rules.

"Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries," Park and Sperling said.