The US is set for a political showdown over the issue of so-called internet neutrality, or equal access to the web for companies creating content. Cable and telecoms companies and Republican lawmakers have reacted angrily to a plan by President Obama to regulate Internet service providers.
“Internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website,” said Obama.“Cable companies can’t decide which online stores you can shop at or which streaming services you can use and they can’t let any company pay for priority over its competitors.”
That means a website paying service providers for what is known as a “fast lane”, or better speed than competitors have.
Critics say that would stop future internet stars from breaking into the market.
Michael Weinberg, the Vice President of the internet rights group Public Knowledge, explained:
“Well, could Facebook have broken in if MySpace had a lock on the fast lane?” he asked.
“Could YouTube have broken in if the internet company that is also often the cable company could have slowed them down and said, you know, we prefer there wasn’t online video that we don’t control.”
Following Obama’s statement, shares in internet service providers have fallen sharply. But many of them deny they get paid for prioritisation deals or plan to do so.