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Comcast Has Some Issues With the White House's Net Neutrality Proposal

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts talks about the uncertainty caused by President Obama's net neutrality proposal.

Asa Mathat

Comcast*, the nation’s largest broadband provider, says President Obama’s approach to net neutrality creates uncertainty for businesses that spend billions to create and maintain the service.

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said the White House’s proposal to regulate Internet providers like public utilities would do nothing to spur future investment.

But Roberts stopped short of issuing the kind of dramatic pronouncement that AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson did earlier in the day. The wireless carrier said it would suspend investment in high-speed Internet connections until the rules are resolved.

“I don’t have news like that,” Roberts said in a meeting with press in San Francisco, in which he and other Comcast executives showed off technological innovations, such as a new form of TV navigation for the visually impaired. “But I do think the unfortunate reality is the uncertainty it creates — investment uncertainty.”

President Obama said Monday that the Federal Communications Commission should regulate consumer broadband service under Title II, a provision that would allow the agency to potentially set prices.

Roberts laid out areas of common ground with the White House, including how the Internet should remain free and open, without blocking, throttling or paid prioritization, in which a content owner pays a broadband provider to cut in the front of the line.

“Where we disagree — it’s a very technical and critical disagreement — is what’s the best way to enforce those principles and make them the law of the land,” Roberts said, citing a different part of the Telecommunications Act that could be used to achieve an open Internet.

Web publishers have raised concerns that allowing broadband providers to charge for premium access to customers could choke off innovation and stifle growth in the industry. Regulation is needed, they’ve argued.

One area Roberts spotlighted was so-called interconnection agreements, in which Web companies like Netflix pay providers like Comcast a fee to connect more directly to its service. While Obama said net neutrality should extend to this part of the Internet, Roberts said these agreements have been the source of “tremendous misunderstanding,” are fairly common among Web providers and shouldn’t be regulated.

Netflix, of course, has taken the opposite tack, and called the White House’s proposal “a bold move by the President.”

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.