Comcast exec: We agree with Obama on net neutrality principles

Comcast agrees with President’s Obama’s principles for protecting the Internet, a top executive maintained on Tuesday.

It just disagrees on how to get there.

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Executive Vice President David Cohen said his company is “on the record as agreeing with every point,” in a blog post on Tuesday, one day after Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission to treat the Internet like a utility.

Internet service companies like Comcast or Verizon should not be able to block or slow users’ access to particular websites, Cohen said, nor should companies be able to pay for quicker service on “fast lanes.”

“We applaud the president for laying out these principles and framing the broad areas of agreement that we have with him,” Cohen wrote.

“There is one important technical legal difference of opinion between the President and Comcast: we do not support reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II,” he added.

Reclassifying broadband Internet as a “telecommunications” service instead of an “information” service under the 1996 Telecommunications Act would give the FCC the ability to impose regulations under the more expansive Title II of the law.

Reclassification has been a point of contention for telecommunications companies and Republicans, who fear it would amount to aggressive regulation that would limit the economic growth of the Internet.

Taking that step, as President Obama called for on Monday, “would harm future innovation and investment in broadband and is not necessary to put in place strong and enforceable Open Internet protections,” Cohen said on Tuesday.

“People can be for net neutrality and against Title II — that simply represents agreement on the why, but not the how,” he added.

Instead of treating broadband like a utility, Comcast has urged the FCC to write new rules for the Internet under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. Critics of that approach say it would allow companies to cut deals to give some websites faster access to users, which would amount to fast lanes on the Internet.

No matter which path the FCC chooses, Comcast is bound to the agency’s previous net neutrality rules for the next four years. Though those regulations were tossed out by an appeals court earlier this year, Comcast is required to stick to them until 2018 as a condition of its 2013 merger with NBC Universal.