President Obama talks with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium on July 22, 2014. (Photo credit: The White House/Chuck Kennedy)

Before a room full of start-up entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was asked about her department's role in the ongoing debate over net neutrality, or the idea that all online content should be treated the same by Internet service providers.

The question matters because some of the 111-year-old Commerce Department's natural constituents -- big, entrenched telecommunications companies like AT&T and Comcast — have had a strong negative reaction to President Obama's call, issued a week ago, for the Federal Communications Commission to adopt the "strongest possible rules" to prevent Internet service providers from accepting money to make some Web sites and online services, like Netflix, run faster.

In response, Secretary Pritzker focused on her support for the ambitions of that proposal rather than on the controversial mechanics of Obama's approach.

"I think that what was really important were the principles that the president put out," said the secretary. "As you know, the president has supported net neutrality since he was a candidate in 2008. And really what we're focused on, and what has been our role, we have had a seat at the table in terms of making sure that these principles were well-articulated, which is really no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization, and increased transparency throughout the connectivity that goes into the effectiveness of the Internet."

Questions were submitted on index cards by both the media and the general audience; Pritzker took three, but wasn't presented by the event's moderator with one (from this reporter) about Obama's call for the FCC to apply the far-reaching authority included in Title II of the Communications Act to ensure net neutrality and its impact on the innovation economy.

Pritzker made the comments in a visit to the downtown D.C. start-up hub 1776. This wasn't her first visit to the 1776 space. Last year, Pritzker kicked-off the Obama administration's "Open for Business Agenda" focused on innovation and economic growth there.