"Keep the internet free and open:" President Obama proposes strict net neutrality regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WITI) -- Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the internet equally -- not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. Currently, internet service providers are lobbying the FCC to allow "fast lane" services -- where certain websites would be faster after users paid a fee to the internet service provider. President Barack Obama has unveiled a plan for strict regulations -- saying he's urging the FCC to "do everything they can to protect net neutrality for everyone" and "keep the internet free and open." Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan says he'll fight the idea of the federal government regulating the information highway.

President Obama says the internet should be treated like a utility -- critical to daily life just like gas, water and electricity. He says the FCC, an agency independent of his administration, should adopt the "strictest possible rules" to keep internet service providers like your phone and cable companies from blocking or slowing down your internet service.

"In plain English, I`m asking them to recognize that for most Americans, the internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life. That's why I'm laying out a plan to keep the internet free and open and that's why I'm urging the Federal Communications Commission to do everything they can to protect net neutrality for everyone. They should make it clear whether you use a computer, phone, or tablet, internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website. 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," President Obama said.

President Obama is formally supporting the concept of "net neutrality" -- maintaining an open internet that treats all websites and customers equally.

"Ever since the internet was created, it`s been organized around the basic principles of openness, fairness and freedom," President Obama said.

So why is net neutrality an issue? Some big broadband companies want to be able to cut deals with services like YouTube and Netflix to have faster access. Those companies could also charge customers for faster service.

Congressman Paul Ryan is cautioning that President Obama's plan may be too heavy-handed.

"What I really worry about is the federal government getting involved in regulating the internet, or God forbid, taxing things on the internet," Congressman Ryan said.

Congressman Ryan and other Republicans in Congress are worried President Obama's plan could strike entrepreneurial innovation.

"We have to be extremely careful with the federal government's interference with the internet.  We have internet freedom today. It's working well for the economy, for Americans, for our civil liberties -- and I don't want to see the federal government mess that up," Congressman Ryan said.

Lawmakers cannot stop the FCC from issuing new regulations -- but they can certainly influence whatever new regulations are put into place.

The FCC will not vote on new regulations until early 2015.