President Obama
US President Obama has called for broadband to be classified as a vital serviceReuters

US President Barack Obama has personally called on the Federal Communications Commission to enforce regulations that will protect net neutrality.

"An open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life," Obama said in a statement. "By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.

The debate on net neutrality - the concept that all web traffic should be treated equally - centres around rules that could allow internet service providers (ISPs) to create "fast lanes" for websites willing to pay for faster data speeds.

Over four million comments concerning the controversial proposals for a "two-speed internet" were received by US regulation watchdog the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year, making it the most contentious subject in the agency's history.

Obama has called for "no blocking", "no throttling", "increased transparency" and "no paid prioritisation" in order to protect a free and open internet.

"Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas," Obama said.

"The time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do.

"To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act - while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."