Tales from the Trail

Pearl Jam to Obama: Don’t change your tune on Web issues

December 18, 2008

WASHINGTON – Rock bands Pearl Jam and R.E.M., the founder of Craigslist, consumer activists and others who backed Barack Obama’s technology-fueled presidential win told the Illinois Democrat on Thursday that they expect him to return the favor.

USA/They were among more than 100 organizations that sent a letter to Obama, who takes office Jan. 20, urging him to lift “the stranglehold industry lobbyists have had on communications policy, and put the public’s priorities first.”

Citing Obama’s words back to him in bullet points, the letter reminded the president-elect of his campaign support for net neutrality, universal broadband and other web-friendly positions. It referred to an Obama speech at Google headquarters where he vowed to “take a back seat to no one in my commitment to net neutrality.”

The fight over so-called net neutrality pits Google and Microsoft against AT&T and some Internet service providers, which want more flexibility to control web traffic by setting higher prices for certain content.

Obama has yet to choose nominees to lead the Federal Communications Commission, which sets telecom policy, or the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with consumer protection.

Obama’s promise to create a new chief technology officer for the U.S. government is also eagerly awaited by groups that signed the letter. “We look forward to working with the leaders you will appoint,” it said.

The letter was organized by the media advocacy group Free Press and signers included Craigslist founder Craig Newmark; labor group Service Employees International Union; think tank New America Foundation; Consumers Union; American Library Association; National Organization for Women and activist group Moveon.org.

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- Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam performs in July.)

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