While President Obama advocated for net neutrality this week, the Republican Party seemingly worked overtime to prove this meme may be accurate.
Net neutrality simply means that internet service providers (ISPs) provide access to all web content equally. This prevents ISPs from hindering or blocking content, or giving preferential treatment to specific content over others. If you like the internet as it stands today, you are for net neutrality. So, how did we get to a point where we could be at risk of losing it?
In December 2010, the FCC implemented regulations to insure ISPs were not discriminating against web content; protecting net neutrality. This was the Open Internet Order.
It took communications company Verizon just one month to challenge the new FCC regulations, known as the Verizon v. Federal Communication Commission case. The United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Verizon.
In the opinion of the court, Judge David Tatel wrote:
“Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”
Essentially, the reason these protections can’t stand is because ISPs were initially classified under Title 1 (information services) of the 1996 Telecommunications Act rather than under Title II (utilities).
Unfortunately, we may have already begun to see the negative side effects of the Verizon ruling.
In February of this year, Netflix was forced to pay Comcast an additional fee to properly stream their entertainment services to their customers (who they were losing due to the intentional degradation of their product by Comcast).
This graph made by The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, shows how quickly the Netflix stream improves once payment is made to the cable provider.
In April of this year, the FCC announced they would support fast lanes for web traffic. This would create different downloading speeds for different content, the exact thing net neutrality has prevented all of these years.
On Monday, President Obama released a statement unequivocally supporting net neutrality. In addition to advocating for the FCC to implement rules preventing ISPs from blocking and intentionally slowing down legal content, he also tackled the very core of the problem:
“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.”
This could have been a big moment for the Republican Party to stand in support with the administration in preserving net neutrality before the GOP-led 114th Congress convenes in January. However, the Republicans went with Plan B: Fuck That.
“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama Administration continues to disregard the people’s will and push for more mandates on our economy. An open, vibrant Internet is essential to a growing economy, and net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship.” Republican House Speaker John Boehner released in a statement.
Like the majority of issues, Boehner is out of step with the “people’s will.” According to the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, 81% of Americans
oppose ISPs charging websites extra for increased speeds.
I would love for a program like Dateline, to arrange an opportunity for the House Speaker to explain to multi-billionaire entrepreneur Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, the dangers net neutrality presents to job creation.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook was just one of nearly 200 sites that added their name to a May 7th letter for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in support of an open internet:
“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.
Such rules are essential for the future of the internet.”
Clearly, not acting in the interest of the American people; Boehner’s position is better understood when you take into account the $107,775.00 he has received from Comcast in the 2014 cycle alone.
Boehner wasn’t alone in his crusade against common sense. Future Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to the President’s proposed FCC rules as a “terrible idea.” I can only imagine a Comcast representative proofreading McConnell’s statement as he quietly counts the $45,550.00 he has received from the cable giant.
The most publicized response came from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who wrote a piece for The Washington Post:
“In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices.”
Cruz clearly did not read Obama’s statement, because the Commander in Chief makes it clear that the FCC should not involve itself with the issue of regulating prices.
Although Cruz voices concern over poor content delivery and limited choices, he can’t seem to grasp the concept that this is exactly what net neutrality prevents ISPs from doing… regardless of which crayons you use to spell it out for him.
Then again, we are discussing members of a political party who can’t even understand the basic concept of equality for people. So why would they for internet content?