President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the principle known as net neutrality Thursday, signaling he would be opposed to the proposed Federal Communications plan to create a so-called Internet “fast-lanes.”
Speaking at a town hall at a technology co-working space in Santa Monica, Calif., Obama said a level playing field on the Internet was one of his earliest campaign promises. “On net neutrality, I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality,” Obama said, earning a round of applause from the tech-minded crowd. “I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.”
“I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: that is something I’m opposed to,” Obama said. “I was opposed to it when I ran and I continue to be opposed to it now.”
The FCC proposal would require Internet service providers to maintain a baseline of service, but would allow some companies to pay for preferential service, creating a two-tiered Internet that essentially undermines the premise of net neutrality. The issue has stretched thin a 2008 campaign promise Obama made when he said, “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.”
Though Obama pledged that the issue would be front-and-center on his mind when nominating commissioners to the regulating agency, the current controversial proposal had the backing of three commissioners he appointed, including chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the telecom industry.
Thursday’s remarks were the President’s most detailed comment on the issue of net neutrality since the FCC proposal was announced earlier this year. Obama did not specifically weigh in on the proposal, but said he expected the final rule to be consistent with his campaign promise.
“Now the FCC is an independent agency,” Obama said. “They came out with some preliminary rules that I think the netroots and a lot of folks in favor of net neutrality were concerned with. My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t—now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules to emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”
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