Comcast “extortion” shows the need to treat broadband as a utility, Reddit’s Ohanian said

Alexis Ohanian, startup investor and co-founder of Reddit, lashed out at U.S. broadband policy on Thursday, calling on the FCC to reclassify internet broadband as “the utility we all know it to be.”

“Somehow America leads the world in tech innovation despite having the worst and slowest internet,” said Ohanian at the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit in New York City.

Ohanian aimed special vitriol at [company]Comcast[/company], affecting a mafia-style voice to accuse the cable giant of “legal extortion” for fiddling with [company]Netflix[/company] speeds until the video site paid it to restore proper service.

“It’s such a racket,” he said, adding that he worried that the next Netflix is being developed in a dorm room somewhere, but that bigger companies could exploit new internet rules to strangle future competitors in the crib.

Ohanian’s comments come as the FCC heads toward the end game in a process that will create new rules for the internet. The crux of the issue is whether the agency will reimpose rules that force broadband providers to treat all websites alike, or if companies like Comcast can charge sites to reach consumers.

Pressed by [company]Bloomberg[/company]’s Diane Brady over whether he would bet on the FCC actually imposing net neutrality through its so-called “Title II” power, however, Ohanian demurred and only said it would be “an act of deafness” if the agency did not.

His relunctance to offer a prediction is consistent with the predominant view in Washington, where few believe the FCC’s chairman will risk the ire of the powerful telecommunication lobby by imposing Title II.

In a follow-up chat, Ohanian said there is still time to sway momentum in favor of Title II, and added that the support of a big company like [company]Google[/company] could change the dialogue. He noted that the vast majority of employees at the company support classifying broadband as a utility, but that Google is now a large company like Amazon, whose interests lie on both sides of many major issues.

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