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You know, when I came up with this phrase "net neutrality," I didn't mean for it to be exciting.

Net neutrality.

Net neutrality.

Net neutrality.

Yes, "net neutrality." The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are "featuring Sting."

John Oliver says it's boring. I'm not trying to entertain him.

Here's the thing. Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially, it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.

Throughout American history, neutral networks have actually been a backbone of the American economy. If you think about electricity, the electric grid has been this incredible platform for innovation. People invent things, and they just make them work on electricity. You don't have to think about it. Imagine electric network wasn't neutral. You buy a new toaster, you come home, plug it in, and you find out, "Oh, my Goodness," you know. "The electric company made a deal with the other toaster makers, and my toaster doesn't work." And you can imagine immediately how that would start to distort the competition, and it's exactly the same on the Internet.

If Verizon had controlled the Internet, would Skype have been allowed? Take any one of the amazing innovations that you see happening on the Internet, and then imagine network owners were in the position to say, "No, that can't be allowed on our network."

I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.

We thought 2008, the election of Obama was our great hope, because he said, "No other presidential candidate is as committed to network neutrality as I am."

Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose.

Much of the reason why he's President or why he became President in 2009 was because of his ability to organize using an open Internet. And so he of all people should really understand the importance of keeping the Internet open. Unfortunately, he's appointed someone who doesn't seem to be quite in line with that vision. FCC Chairman Wheeler is proposing to create a system where companies that can pay more to go faster will be in the fast lane, and the rest of us would necessarily be in the slow lane.

Telecoms companies are really a kind of poster child for regulatory capture and corruption. Now they'll say, "Look, it's our private network, we built it, we paid for it, why shouldn't we get to charge however we want for it?" And the fact is, they didn't just built it, because you can't just build a phone company, right? If you had to go, and you had to pay for, like, every square yard linear foot of dirt that you dug up through every city street... Like, imagine digging up every road in Manhattan, right? What it would cost you to dig up every road, what it would cost you to get permission to go into every basement. If you had to pay for all that stuff, it will cost into trillions. If you're going to take a public subsidy, you can't draw the line at delivering public benefit.

Some of these Internet service providers are earning profits 70, 80, 97% by some reports. Okay? They are making money hand over fist. They are astronomically profitable, and for them to fight fair rules of the road... It's shameful. There's actually a number of states where communities are prohibited from building their own broadband networks.

What we have in this country is a lack of competition. You have, in 80% of the country, people have a choice of one high speed Internet provider. You have a situation in which those providers, even though they have monopoly like status, or oligopoly like status, they're not treated as monopolies.

The truth is, Republicans, Independents, Democrats, when you talk to regular people, they think this stinks.

Why do we have such strong feelings about a network? It's not just a network, it's actually the kind of fabric of life at this point.
The American people came to this conversation, and not just John Oliver. The American people have shown up and have been throwing comments, you know, protesting outside the FCC. You know, I think they have shown they really care about this issue. And the whole politics changes when people show up.

Internet access is as close to a human right as you're going to get in the 21st century, and because it's the single wire that delivers free speech, and free press, and freedom of association, and access to markets, and ideas, and civic engagement, political engagement, better nutrition, more income, and you know, kind of every outcome that we hope for as a society.

What we've been saying since the beginning of this debate is that the FCC ought to treat broadband access like what it is: a utility, a common carrier.

You should care about the open Internet if you care about the idea of freedom and you care about living in a country which feels dynamic, where it feels like there's a sense of opportunity, there's a place you can go and try things out, or go there and find out something you never knew before. And if you believe in the importance of that land of opportunity, then I think you believe in the open Internet.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video was created by The New York Times. Check out the NYT on Facebook and Twitter. There's a lot of information about net neutrality out there. If you're interested in learning more about what you can do to help, click here, here, or here. Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.

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