Leading up to the State of the Union, President Barack Obama criss-crossed the nation offering proposals on everything from free college, to cybersecurity and consumer privacy. But the president kept the details of these plans to a minimum during his address. Instead he used his pulpit to lay out a broader agenda, one that includes preserving Net Neutrality, combating global warming, promoting education and entrepreneurship.
While Obama stopped short of calling for broadband internet to be reclassified under Title II (which you can read more about here), he did pledge to "protect a free and open internet." It's a pledge that has Net Neutrality advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) feeling "encouraged" and hopeful about the upcoming FCC vote. But the idea of protecting a free and open internet isn't just about keeping Time Warner from charging Netflix extra to keep videos coming to you stutter-free. For the president, it's also about small business and education. In particular he paid brief lip service to extending the reach of broadband to under-served communities and to the "next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs" who will rely on the internet to "[reshape] our world."
Of course the lead-up to the State of the Union also saw the president put a renewed focus on cybersecurity. While he offered no new proposals during the speech, he renewed his call for Congress to pass legislation designed to combat the "evolving threat of cyberattacks," identity theft and personal privacy. While the call to action made chairman and CEO of the MPAA Chris Dodd happy, saying that the president "made it clear ... that securing our nation's cyberspace for businesses, public networks and consumers is a top priority," others harbor concerns about the legislation. The EFF in particular has called past efforts, "deeply flawed" and is concerned that the current proposals are too similar to the derided (and derailed) CISPA bill.
Lastly, the president took the opportunity to take on climate change deniers. He specifically called out those who would dismiss climate change with the glib phrase, "I'm not a scientist." Obama rebuked them by saying, "I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what -- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate." His forceful declaration that climate change needs to be treated as an immediate threat comes only days after the NOAA released its most recent climate numbers, which show that average temperatures for the year and for December were significantly higher than the 20th century average.
All told, his proposals add up to an effort to put science and technology front and center. While the broader message was of course about securing American interests and improving the economy, it's clear the president sees a free and secure internet as an integral part of that. And of course he sees the issue of climate change as one of national security as well. In the end, the State of the Union was less about specific proposals, and more about laying out how all of these issues are interconnected.