More Movement in the Campaign to Push Obama on Net Neutrality

After months of standing on the sidelines of the Net Neutrality debate, President Obama is now starting to show his support for the open Internet in a big way.

“You don’t want differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users,” he told a reporter last week. “You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”

We agree — as does the New York Times. On Thursday morning, a Times editorial noted the chasm between Obama’s vision for the Internet and the pay-to-play plan FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is pushing forward. The Times went one big step further, urging the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service — which is the only way to protect real Net Neutrality.

“Mr. Obama is sending Mr. Wheeler and his fellow commissioners a message,” the Times said. “They should pay attention.”

Obama has stepped up his support for Net Neutrality on other fronts this summer, as Free Press member Maureen Griswold knows firsthand.

Griswold wrote to the president to remind him of his 2007 campaign promise to “take a back seat to no one” in his commitment to Net Neutrality. Griswold, a former journalist and a retired captain in the Army Nurse Corps, criticized Obama’s appointment of a former lobbyist to chair the FCC. Wheeler’s plan to allow discrimination online, Griswold said, would destroy the open Internet.

“It’s appalling,” she wrote, “that our democracy is evolving into an oligarchy.”

Griswold hit send on her email. And in late July, the president responded. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:

Since I first ran for this office, I have been a strong supporter of Net Neutrality. An open Internet enables the free flow of information and ideas. It is also vital to promoting innovation and economic productivity. Its equality — of data, content and access to the consumer — has powered extraordinary economic growth and the most diverse and successful entrepreneurial activity the world has ever seen. The Internet is the ultimate level playing field, and openness is key to its success. Absent Net Neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries.

… The FCC chairman has said it is his goal to preserve an open Internet. I support that goal and will be watching closely as the process moves forward in hopes we stay true to the spirit of Net Neutrality. My administration will consider any option that makes sense.

It’s great that the president is engaging with this issue and saying all the right things. But we can’t rest on our laurels. That’s why Free Press teamed up Wednesday with former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps — a Common Cause adviser and member of the Free Press board — to send a letter to the White House requesting a meeting on Net Neutrality with the president.

In the letter, Copps and Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron noted that Wheeler’s plan would “undermine Net Neutrality and imperil the future of the open Internet.”

“Our nation’s Internet future is on the line,” the letter reads, “and a wrong decision now will inflict irreparable damage to a platform that is central to our economic and social progress.”

We’ll let you know if the president accepts our invitation. In the meantime, write, call and email Obama — and if you haven’t already, submit your comment on Wheeler’s proposal to the FCC. The agency’s final comment deadline is Sept. 15 — let’s make so much noise that the FCC has no choice but to scrap its plan and stand up for real Net Neutrality.

Original photo by Flickr user Steve Jurvetson