Tangled Web: Obama and G.O.P. Clash Over Internet

Michael D. Shear NOVEMBER 11, 2014 NYT FD


 Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Commission chairman. Mark Holm for The New York Times


Good Tuesday morning from Washington, where 800,000 people are expected for Veterans Day festivities. President Obama has left town for China, where he seemed to relax after the Democrats’ shellacking last week. But first up, a look at the partisan fight that the president has set off over Internet regulations.

A year ago, Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans were locked in an intense battle over a health care website. Now they’re clashing over the web itself.

Mr. Obama announced on Monday that he wants the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet much as it does telephone companies, using government rules to guarantee “net neutrality” and prevent sweetheart deals between cable companies and content providers like Netflix.

The Republicans exploded in outrage, accusing the president of trying to impose 1930s-style, big-government regulations on 21st-century technology. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the president was trying to create “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Mr. Obama clearly believes the public will back his position: More than 3.7 million people urged the agency to adopt such a policy. The response broke the record of 1.4 million F.C.C. comments after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Still, Republicans have some of the nation’s biggest telecommunications companies on their side, and they are betting that many Americans won’t like the federal government interfering with the Internet.

Either way, there might not be enough bandwidth for compromise on this issue.