Comcast agrees with Obama on net neutrality, except for the legal bit

You have to admire the chutzpah: a day after President Obama jolted the telecom industry with a bold announcement on net neutrality, Comcast declared that it agrees with him.

In a winsome blog post titled “Surprise, We Agree with the President’s Principles on Net Neutrality,” Comcast on Tuesday said it agrees with the President on “every point.”

To wit, Comcast says it is totally against “blocking,” “throttling,” “paid prioritization” and the other types of mischief that net neutrality is intended to prevent. In response to Obama’s various policy positions, Comcast stated over and over again “We agree and that is our practice.”

But before you conclude that pigs fly and hell is frozen, there is one important line in Comcast’s post to give everyone pause:

There is one important technical legal difference of opinion between the President and Comcast:  we do not support reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II.

In other words, Comcast likes Obama’s ideas just fine in theory, but not in practice. And while the company frames the disagreement as a “technical legal difference,” the distinction between Title II (what Obama wants) and the Section 706 (what Comcast wants) is in fact totally monumental. The former gives the FCC power to ban “fast lanes” that would let ISP’s favor some websites over others, while the latter would not.

Also, why Comcast is quick to say that “no blocking” and “no throttling” is its practice, the company might have added that it is currently under a legal order to abide by net neutrality until 2018 — which was a promise it had to make when it swallowed content giant NBC.

The upshot here, then, is not that the Comcast executives had a road-to-Damascus moment. Rather, the “Surprise” blog post shows how the telecom industry is rattled by the sudden possibility of Title II becoming a reality.

To learn more about the debate, you can read what the web is saying — or just check out the Oatmeal’s funny takedown of net neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz.