Yesterday, US President Obama came out in support of net neutrality, asking the FCC to reclassify broadband as a public utility. This would help stop ISPs from creating "internet slow lanes" and throttling customers. Senator Ted Cruz — who accepted campaign funds from telcom giant Comcast — immediately fired back with an incendiary tweet.
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Comparing net neutrality to Obamacare is basically the most insulting parallel a conservative senator can make — half buzzword, half slur and 100 per cent cynical.
Cruz's communications director got in on the action, too:
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
This is a disingenuous political manoeuvre and nothing more.
Ted Cruz and his team have the facts wrong about net neutrality. Obama specifically said 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 so is lying (or maybe they didn't actually read the statement?).
Cruz is one of the most powerful people in Congress, and he's considering a presidential run in 2016. He's on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, which handles internet governance and FCC oversight. This is a man people give their attention, which makes this statement dangerous as well as disingenuous.
Cruz is rallying his supporters by denigrating the Obama administration's politics. He is conflating a hatred with anything Obama stands for with a hatred for this particular stance, which is a rational and potentially bipartisan solution to a problem that affects everyone across the aisle (or at least everyone across the aisle without ties to the ISPs).
Obama is not saying the government should wrest control from private companies and start administering the Internet itself. He is trying to keep the Internet as an equaliser. There is no need for political polarization here.
But political polarization we're gonna get. Cruz isn't alone in trying to characterise a push to protect consumers as a socialist — or at the least, bureaucratic — nightmare. 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, labour, civil-rights organisation, and tech companies, who have long advocated for a far more restrained approach.
The characterization that reclassifying the internet as a utility will hamper innovation and introduce a byzantine influx of administrative red tape is wrong, and it obscures the actual issue at hand here: Net neutrality protection is what is best for consumers. It will not choke off chances for innovation; it will ensure that innovators from across the socioeconomic spectrum will have a more level playing field when it comes to receiving information.
ISPs are moving away from net neutrality in their attempts to throttle and lay out premium traffic lanes. This is one of those attacks on our freedoms you hear about on Fox News.
The government will not determine the speed of the internet, it will simply stop ISPs from slowing service down. Obama is asking private companies to treat their customers fairly; there is no part of his plan that involves the government seizing control of providers.
Freedom is a word that gets thrown around a lot in politics. Conservatives believe big government curtails freedoms. This can happen, and it is important to interrogate when and why the government creates and enforces new legislation. If the FCC authorizes the internet fast lane rules, the government will be stifling innovation and hurting its citizens. But the government is not the only force that can constrict freedom.
Corporations can be just as tyrannical as corrupt federal administrations, and we have been in danger of ISPs controlling and corroding the flow of information through the internet in a way that would be detrimental to everybody. This is not a case of government scope creep. This is a case of the executive branch of the government taking a stand in an attempt to preserve an endangered freedom.
The only thing net neutrality would slow down is the speed at which you're getting fucked, and that's something everyone in Congress should agree on.