Proponents of net neutrality — so, most Americans — officially (re)gained a major ally on Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to vote on "open internet" or net neutrality rules, and President Obama is laying down his marker. "I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality," Obama said at a town hall event at Cross Campus, a tech incubator in Santa Monica, California. "I think it is what has unleashed the power of the internet, and you don't want to lose that or clog the pipes."
This isn't a new position for Obama, but people got nervous about the president's commitment after his FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, proposed new rules that would potentially open up a two-tier internet access system. The FCC, an independent agency, will get the final say — or the federal courts might, since the D.C. circuit court has struck down the FCC's last two attempts to codify net neutrality.
With Wheeler, "I can't just call him up and tell him exactly what to do," Obama said. "But what I've been clear about and what the White House has been clear about is we expect whatever final rules emerge to make sure that we're not creating two or three or four tiers of internet."
"Expecting the preservation of net neutrality is not the same as guaranteeing it," says Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones. But it's still a good sign for the open internet movement. You can watch Obama's speech here — the net neutrality comments start right before 1 hour 6 minutes.