He's said it before, and now he's said it again -- but this time President Obama's unwavering statement in support of Net Neutrality couldn't have come at a better time in the fight for our Internet freedom.
Monday, during the president's live online YouTube interview follow-up to his State of the Union Address, Obama told the world: "I'm a big believer in Net Neutrality."
YouTube's "CitizenTube" invited people to pose questions for the president and allowed them to vote on the questions they most wanted Obama to answer. More than 11,000 questions were submitted, and some 667,000 votes were cast.
The question was posed by James Earlywine of Indianapolis:
An open Internet is a powerful engine for economic growth and new jobs. Letting large companies block and filter online content and services would stifle needed growth. What is your commitment to keeping the Internet open and neutral in America?
Obama's strong response will help move the needle in a debate where industry groups have been pulling lawmakers in the wrong direction. Indeed, Obama even called them out on it.
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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.
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.
Watch the video:
There are three reasons why this statement is such a victory. First, the Federal Communications Commission is creating rules now that would stop Internet service providers from blocking and controlling Internet traffic. Big companies like Comcast and AT&T have been lobbying hard to sway the FCC away from a strong rulemaking, and have been spreading misinformation and spin about Net Neutrality. Obama's words yesterday show that his administration is as serious as ever about Net Neutrality, and that a powerful FCC rulemaking on Net Neutrality has the backing of the White House.
Second, this is further proof that Net Neutrality is a mainstream issue with the backing of millions of people. With so many people submitting questions for the YouTube interview, and tens of thousands voting, you'd think that a "wonky" issue like Net Neutrality would get lost. But people understand that an open Internet is central to all the issues they care about, and that allowing companies to co-opt and control the Internet would destroy it. It's clear that people want answers and action, and it's not acceptable for lawmakers and public officials to dodge what's no longer a "fringe" issue.
Finally, Obama made clear that an open Internet is central to our economic recovery, spurs job growth and drives innovation. In fact, he says that ISP's anti-Net Neutrality stance runs counter to the Internet's ability to foster economic growth. Beyond promoting free speech, access to information and a diversity of viewpoints, the open Internet underscores a robust and healthy economy. Small businesses, graduating students, and online entrepreneurs can all use the open Internet as a platform for their big idea or business. Indeed, someone may be making the "next YouTube" right now.
President Obama made his position loud and clear. Now let's hope that the FCC follows through. In fact, let's not just hope; let's demand that they do. Make sure they hear from you.