Obama Backs Net Neutrality in Part Because Web Empowered His Presidential Campaigns

President Barack Obama used his time on a Google hangout Friday to say he wants to push ahead with some version of net neutrality regulations despite an appeals court ruling this month that struck down the existing Federal Communication Commission regulation over Internet providers.

President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Earlier Obama delivered a speech at McGavock High School. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

He said that the government has to respect the court’s ruling “initially,” but that there may be other avenues for government regulation.

“”It’s something I’ve cared deeply about ever since I ran for office, in part because my own campaign was empowered by a free and open Internet and the ability for citizens all across this country to engage and create and find new tools to mobilize themselves,” Obama said during a Google hangout question and answer session called a “Virtual Road Trip,” because he was getting questions from across the country.

“A lot of that couldn’t have been done if there were a lot of commercial barriers and roadblocks. So I’ve been a strong supporter of net neutrality,” the president continued.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FCC’s ability to regulate the internet, but they ruled against the commission’s authority to impose requirements that “contravene express statutory mandates.”

Obama said that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom the president appointed to the post, wants to look for ways to implement rules that would be allowed under the court ruling.

“You know, we live under a system in which, when a court rules, we have to respect that ruling initially,” Obama said. “But the FCC, I know, and Tom Wheeler, are looking at all the options at their disposal, potential appeals, potential rule making, a variety of tools they may have in order to continue to vindicate the notion of a free and open Internet. I think you can feel confident that this administration will continue to support that.”

The D.C. appeals court opinion still allows for future government regulation of Internet traffic.

“The one good piece of news coming out of this court opinion was, the court did confirm that the FCC can regulate this space,” Obama said. “They have authority. The question now, how do they use that authority if the old systems and rulings they had in place were not effective in preserving net neutrality, to they have other tools that would stand up to court scrutiny that accomplishes the same goals.”

“You can expect that even though the FCC is independent, once I make the appointment, I can’t meddle in the decision making there, based on my conversations with Tom Wheeler when he was appointed, I’m pretty confident, and they’ve said already, that they’re going to be exploring what makes the Internet so special,” the president continued.

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