City-owned Web service touted by Obama criticizes net neutrality plan

A municipal broadband network touted by President Obama just last month is taking issue with his plan to enact tough net neutrality rules.

An executive from Cedar Falls Utilities — where Obama went in January to denounce state laws limiting city-owned broadband services — joined other representatives of small- and medium-sized Web service companies in a meeting with regulators last week urging them not to follow the president's advice and reclassify Internet service so that it can be treated like a utility.

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Rules under Title II of the Communications Act would be “extremely burdensome” for the Internet provider, marketing manager Betty Zeman told a number of FCC officials, according to a new regulatory filing.

“The smaller [Internet service providers] simply lack the incentive or ability to harm Internet edge providers or their own subscribers through discrimination, throttling, blocking or seeking payment for priority delivery,” a lawyer for the American Cable Association trade group wrote in the filing.

”In short, they present no problem to the open Internet for which Title II regulation is the solution.”

The stance puts the Obama administration and Democrats on the FCC in an awkward position.

Obama last month praised residents of Cedar Falls, Iowa, for taking a “visionary move” and erecting the broadband network to compete with major companies such as Comcast.

“It was a really smart thing you guys did,” the president said, while blasting the 19 state laws that limit municipalities from building out their own similar Internet service providers in some way.

In his speech, Obama compared his opposition to limits on municipal broadband network to his support for reclassifying Internet service under Title II of the law. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that the issues are two “acts” in a three-act play that also includes an expanded definition of broadband Internet service. 

But Cedar Falls Utilities doesn't seem to see it that way.