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FCC Chairman says he may ignore Obama on net neutrality

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FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has told web giants Google, Yahoo and others that he won't cave to pressure from the White House, declaring "I am an independent agency." His statement (already seized on by pundits for lack of the royal 'we') looks to be a direct response to President Obama's recent urging that the FCC declare the internet a utility. The White House came out strongly on the side of net neutrality after a leaked document showed that the FCC wanted to let internet service providers (ISPs) continue to use so-called fast lanes.

Critics claim that such practices are a slippery slope to letting carriers shut out companies that interfere with their business models. Large-bandwidth consumer Netflix already has to pay carriers like Comcast -- which has its own streaming service -- in order to have enough bandwidth. The President clearly thinks he's on the popular side of that debate, despite vehement opposition by ISPs like Verizon and AT&T.

Many US Republicans are also against net neutrality, with Senator Ted Cruz (who took campaign funds from Comcast) calling it "Obamacare for the internet." All these developments have turned the heat way up on an already boiling issue, and Wheeler told the web companies: "What I've got to figure out is how to split the baby." He'd do well to bear in mind that nothing in recent memory has riled up the electorate like net neutrality.

*Verizon has acquired AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.

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