When Barack Obama was campaigning for president, he made net neutrality an issue—pledging to defend the core values of a free and open Internet by assuring that all Americans would have equal access to all websites and to all the promise of this digital age.
Asked in 2007 if he would "make it a priority in your first year of office to re-instate net neutrality as the law of the land" and "pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality," candidate Obama responded by saying: "I am a strong supporter of net neutrality," said Obama. "What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says [Internet providers] should be able to be gatekeepers and able to charge different rates to different websites…. so you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom-and-pop sites. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there…. as president I’m going to make sure that is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward."
That commitment made Obama a favorite contender among tech-savvy voters in general and especially among young voters who see through the spin of telecommunications corporations that seek to do away with net neutrality so they can choose which websites consumers could easily and effectively access—based on whether the owners of the sites paid the providers top dollar
Candidate Obama stood out in 2007 and 2008 as the one presidential prospect who "got" that the debate about net neutrality was about a lot more than technical rules and regulations. It was about the fundamental commitments the United States must makeif we are to maintain Internet freedom and realize the promise of digital democracy.
But does the President Obama still "get" it in 2010?
Despite the fact that Obama still talks a good game regarding net neutrality, the man he appointed to chair the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, is proposing a "net neutrality" rule that bears scant resemblance to what candidate Obama promised.
Genachowski’s plan, which he unveiled Wednesday and which he wants the FCC to vote on December 21, does not restore Net Neutrality as it existed before a Republican-dominated FCC took steps to undermine the principle, nor does it guarantee Internet freedom and flexibility. (You can read Genachowski’s plan here.)