Net Neutrality has been in the news a lot lately, and earlier today I published a blog post regarding Obama’s latest plan to address the problem going forward. However, now that Obama’s plan is out in the open, the takes have been coming in from both supporters and adversaries of the proposed plan. While we should pay a lot of attention to the people supporting the plan, I think that we should be paying more attention to the people against the plan. Unfortunately, we are at the point in partisan politics where playing Devil’s Advocate isn’t for the right reason. And in this case, Ted Cruz is being a wildly frustrating and dangerous Devil’s Advocate.
In a nutshell, Obama has issued a plan on how net neutrality can be maintained while also compromising between ISPs and consumers. This is a good thing. The plan would stop things like throttling, blocking, internet “fast lanes”, and generally screwing over consumers at large. However, Senator Ted Cruz – who accepted campaign financing from telecom giant Comcast – immediately fired back against Obama’s plan.
“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
The comparison is an insulting parallel, especially coming from a conservative senator. It’s part-buzzword, part-slur, and is 100% incorrect. All this is a political maneuver. His director of communications also decided to weigh in on the subject:
Net neutrality puts gov’t in charge of determining pricing, terms of service, and what products can be delivered. Sound like Obamacare much?
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) November 10, 2014
It’s important to point out that Ted Cruz and his staff have the facts about net neutrality all wrong. Obama said, specifically, that the government would not be in charge of pricing: “I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.” (emphasis mine)
Government will not rate regulate, and saying that they will is a lie. Perhaps they neglected to read the statement, which wouldn’t be a surprise, since Ted Cruz is blindly and irrationally against anything that Obama is for, simply because Obama is for it.
It bears noting that Ted Cruz is one of the most powerful people in the Senate, is considering running for President in 2016, and is particularly influential in this specific, highly important issue. He’s on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, which handles internet governance and FCC oversight. This is a man that requires attention, and to whom people give their attention, which makes this statement that much more dangerous, and that much more disingenuous, considering you would think that he would be more knowledgeable about a subject which he sits on a subcommittee for.
Cruz is rallying support for his policies by disparaging the Obama administration’s politics. The plan Obama put together is incredibly bipartisan, and effects everyone across the aisle, across the nation, equally, except for those that don’t use the internet (read: nobody).
Obama isn’t pitching the idea of government regulated internet; aside from that being impossible and a burden that the government could not take on in the first place, it’s not even a part of Obama’s conversation. Obama is simply trying to keep the internet free and fair to the consumer, because it is an equalizer amongst essentially everyone. Politics do not need to play a part in this issue; you are either for the internet, or against it, and nobody is “against the internet.”
We will, however, get political polarization. That is the world in which we live. And unfortunately, Cruz isn’t alone in this. Cruz, in his attempts to characterize a push to protect consumers as a socialist policy, has roused support for his views from others on his side of the aisle. Broadband for America had this to say:
President Barack Obama’s endorsement of 1930’s era Title II classification would lead to unprecedented government interference in the Internet and would hurt consumers and innovation. Further, for the President to issue this directive is a threat to the independence of the FCC itself. By vastly expanding the regulatory bureaucracy over the internet, the administration is turning its back on 20 years of bipartisan consensus that has allowed the Internet to flourish. The President’s approach would threaten millions of jobs and a diverse array of stakeholders including, labor, civil-rights organization, and tech companies, who have long advocated for a far more restrained approach.
Characterizing the issue in the context that reclassifying the internet as a public utility will stifle innovation and introduce regulatory red tape and oversight is wrong, and it obscures the core facets of the debate: that net neutrality protection is what’s best for consumers. It won’t stifle innovation, it will actually protect it.
ISPs are moving away from net neutrality so as to wring more profits out of their broadband customers and increase margins. This is an attack on our freedom. ISPs will slow down service, create web competition, and ruin things for people that rely on the internet for their businesses, social lives, and a host of other things that make the internet as necessary as electricity, gas, and clean water.