President warns ‘fast lanes’ on Web could hurt ‘the next Google’

President Obama warned against allowing companies to provide different Internet speeds for different users on Tuesday, which he said could hurt “the next Google or the next Facebook.”

The president did not directly touch on the Federal Communications Commission’s plans for new rules on net neutrality, the concept that all online traffic should be treated equally. But his concern about the ability of some big companies to essentially buy high Web speeds for their users echoed those of many advocates pushing for strong regulations from the commission.  

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“One of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers,” Obama said at a business forum with African leaders. 

“That's the big controversy here. You have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more but then also charge more for more spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet, so they can stream movies faster or what have you," he said.

“The position of my administration, as well as, I think, a lot of companies here is, you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to various user,” Obama added. “You want to leave it open so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed.”

The remarks seem to oppose allowing Internet service companies like Comcast to cut deals with websites like Google or Netflix to give users high speeds, a practice known as “paid prioritization.” Those deals would be allowed under a proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler as long as they were “commercially reasonable,” but critics have warned that would open the door to “fast lanes” on the Internet.

Obama in the past has come out firmly in support in the concept of net neutrality, but he has not yet weighed in on the FCC’s plans for new rules since its old regulations were struck down by an appeals court earlier this year.