President Obama renewed his call for strong net neutrality rules during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama’s vow to protect a “free and open Internet” came while also stressing the importance of increased high-speed Internet access around the country.

“I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world,” Obama said to applause.

During his agenda-setting speech, the president did not get into the details of his call for strong net neutrality rules — also known as “open Internet” rules.  But last November, he made detailed recommendations, calling on the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet similar to a public utility.

The president first urged the FCC to make the change in a YouTube video last November. He and other advocates have said the authority is the only way to enforce rules that would limit Internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic to any website, while also banning companies from negotiating deals for faster service in exchange for a price.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is slated to unveil updated rules next month, which are expected to rely on the authority Obama outlined —reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.

But service providers and Republicans have fiercely opposed using the authority they describe as outdated. House and Senate Republicans recently floated draft legislation that would adopt many of the net neutrality principles favored by advocates, while also limiting the FCC’s authority over the rules.

But most Democrats and other advocates have balked at the proposal.

Obama’s remarks on extending high-speed Internet access to every community are a reference to a plan outlined last week to encourage cities to build out their own broadband network.

Last week, he called to increase high-speed Internet access by expanding city-run broadband around the country and providing a series of grants and loans to incentivize the move.  His administration has called on the Federal Communications Commission to use its authority to override state laws that limit the creation or expansion of municipal broadband.

During his speech Tuesday night, he also gave a shoutout to technology companies like Google and eBay as well as the electric car company Tesla for helping to create “jobs that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago.”

He said he wants the United States to win the race for “discoveries that unleash new jobs.”

“Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars,” he said. “In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.”

This story was updated at 9:58 p.m.




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