Washington

President Plugs Network Neutrality in China

Obama touts Google but concedes he does not tweet 11/16/2009 10:20:00 AM Eastern

President Barack Obama talked extensively about a free and open Internet in a town hall meeting with the Chinese government, though he conceded he had never used Twitter.
"I've always been a strong proponent of open Internet use," he said. "The fact that we have...unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength," he said.

On of the issues among the commissioners when the FCC launched its network neutrality proposal was that other countries not see it as increasing government control of the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made the point of emphasizing that the goal was to insure openness.

Obama gave the net credit for helping him gain the presidency. "One of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet," he said. "Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn't have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn't have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well."

While the president said that his "thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone," to explain his lack of Twitter use, he said he was a big believer in technology and in openness when it comes to information.

"I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable."

Backers of the Free Flow of Information Act may want to remember that line this week as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares, after more than a dozen tries, to vote on the bill that would establish a federal shield law.

The administration had some issues with the original, but a compromise has been struck.

The president also gave a shout out to Google. "Less than 20 years ago [Google] was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn't exist. So I'm a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access."

The president has praised the FCC's proposal to expand and codify network neutrality guidelines. He was also a backer of network neutrality legislation as a senator.

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