In a YouTube interview conducted today, President Obama reiterated his strong support for net neutrality, responding to a prominent question by one of the thousands of citizens who participated in the online town hall.
Here’s the exchange:
MR. GROVE: Great. Well, let’s move back to the questions. And I got to tell you, the number one question that came in, in the jobs and economy category had to do with the Internet. And it came from James Earlywine in Indianapolis. He said: “An open Internet is a powerful engine for economic growth and new jobs. Letting large companies block and fill their online content services would stifle needed growth. What is your commitment to keeping Internet open and neutral in America?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m a big believer in net neutrality. I campaigned on this. I continue to be a strong supporter of it. My FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has indicated that he shares the view that we’ve got to keep the Internet open; that we don’t want to create a bunch of gateways that prevent somebody who doesn’t have a lot of money but has a good idea from being able to start their next YouTube or their next Google on the Internet. So this is something we’re committed to.
We’re getting pushback, obviously, from some of the bigger carriers who would like to be able to charge more fees and extract more money from wealthier customers. But we think that runs counter to the whole spirit of openness that has made the Internet such a powerful engine for not only economic growth, but also for the generation of ideas and creativity.
This is an area where the executive branch is acting directly. As Obama mentioned, his FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski shares his vision, and the FCC has approved rules for an open Internet. The rules will be finalized in the spring, and certainly there is the possibility for wiggle room in the final language and explicit overturning of the rule from Congress. But this statement of continued support from the President aids the cause. Tim Karr of Save the Internet spoke with the questioner, who was pleased with the outcome.
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear he took my question,” said Earlywine, an online marketing expert who is working with eScrapInc to recycle electronic products that would otherwise be put into a landfill. “This business relies upon an open Internet for our continued growth and survival. ”
“I really believe in Obama’s commitment to saving the Internet for people,” Earlywine told me today. “Our nation’s laws are intended to protect the weak. But there are a lot of powerful people trying to set the agenda for themselves. Government is supposed to be a counterbalance to that and it’s nice to see we have a president who shares those values.”
As the FCC prepares to make new rules on Net Neutrality this spring, it’s important to hear Obama take a stand. Obama’s statement comes on the heels of other prominent public officials expressing their support of Net Neutrality and Internet freedom, including FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Save the Internet has collected 1.7 million signatures in support of net neutrality.