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Obama finally enters net neutrality debate: Will he do more harm than good?

The net neutrality debate has been raging for some time and Barack Obama has stepped into the fray, voicing his support for a free and open internet.

More than this, the president is calling for broadband to be reclassified under Title II of the Telecommunications Act which would give the FCC greater powers of regulation. His statement has come as bad news for cable companies who have expressed a desire to create a two-tiered internet.

But while some providers have suggested that that they would like to be able to offer a faster service to customers willing and able to pay more money each month, Obama is calling for a largely unfettered internet.

As well as eliminating the idea of fast lanes, he calls for no blocking of legal content, no throttling, and greater ISP transparency.

While proponents of net neutrality will be buoyed by Obama's support for their cause, this is far from being the end of the battle. For everything he has said, the President holds no sway in what actually happens next - that is in the hands of the independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Telecoms expressed surprise and disappointment at Obama's statement - this stemming from the fact that the FCC could gain greater powers to control prices of broadband provision.

There are concerns that the reclassification of broadband services as "telecommunications services" will introduce new bureaucracy and red tape, and that the existing laws are not easily applied. Net neutrality supporters suggest that these obstacles can be easily overcome, but opponents say that it will serve to stifle innovation. Verizon goes as far as saying (opens in new tab) that there would likely be legal challenges to reclassification.

Obama's proposed four rules of "no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization" are accompanied by a plea for the FCC to "answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality". The president's support for the campaign to maintain the democratic nature of the web is a real boost, but at the same time it further politicises an issue that has already become divided on party lines.

You can check out a video of President Obama's statement below:

The full statement is available to read on the White House website.