Obama Backs Open Networks

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President Obama professed his strong support for network neutrality last week on YouTube.

In an interview with political director Steve Grove based on questions submitted online after the State of the Union speech, Obama called himself a “big believer in net neutrality … I campaigned on this. I continue to be a strong supporter of it.

He said he was on the same page with FCC chairman Julius Genachowski 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.” (Google owns YouTube).

Genachowski and the FCC’s Democratic majority have proposed expanding and codifying the commission’s network openness principles.

The president said network neutrality was getting “pushback” from “bigger carriers,” who he said want to charge more to “extract more money from wealthier customers.” He said 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.”

Those carriers have generally agreed that the Internet needs to be open and accessible, but also argue that new rules could discourage investment and innovation and that variable pricing models for different service levels are not inconsistent with openness.

The FCC effort has faced some pushback from some minority groups concerned the rules could discourage investment in broadband buildouts to minority-heavy, unserved areas.