Given this week’s spike in GOP opposition to net neutrality, it’s obvious that most of the really vocal opponents don’t know what it means and are simply taking a position because it’s the opposite of what President Obama is trying to accomplish. Neither excuse is acceptable and, in a better world, they’d be laughed off the stage for acting like petulant children.
Since Obama announced that he’d be taking steps to ensure that the Internet doesn’t become monopolized solely by corporations that can afford to pay for larger chunks of bandwidth, Republicans from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to Fox News screechers have reflexively lined up against neutrality and in favor of the internet being sold off to the highest bidders.
Cruz tweeted that Obama’s actions amount to “Obamacare for the internet,” which inspired a hashtag backlash with appropriate levels of disdain and snark. Fox News Channel’s Andrew Napolitano said Obama “wants to take the choice of buyers and sellers out of the market.” He also described it as “Orwellian.”
First things first: any argument against net neutrality is, by default, an argument in favor of allowing megacorporations like Verizon and Comcast to set up bandwidth tiers wherein other megacorporations like Google, News Corp and NBC-Universal could afford more bandwidth and therefore faster download speeds for their website content, while, conversely, sites belonging to smaller media companies like, say, The Daily Banter or The Intercept or, hell, Breitbart.com wouldn’t be able to afford competitive speeds. In other words, instead of all websites sharing the internet equally, money and power would dictate the portion of bandwidth each site would get, thus allowing the wealthiest corporations to distribute and therefore control what information is viewed by the public. Additionally, as a nefarious bonus, the telecoms could also block any content found to be objectionable. Cruz and Napolitano appear to support all of this.
Bottom line: unless you’re the CEO of a major telecom, abolishing net neutrality and allowing a “closed internet” is suicidal.
So, here’s a proposal for Ted Cruz and Andrew Napolitano.
If they’re so willing to allow the corporations that control the pipes to charge for bandwidth, let’s start with www.tedcruz.org and www.judgenap.com. It’ll be an important experiment illustrating what’ll happen if we allow the marketplace to decide which websites are seen the most. Here’s the only term of the deal: the FCC will allow the major telecoms to charge Cruz and Judge Nap whatever the telecoms choose to charge for use of their designated series of tubes. Without net neutrality, they’d have no choice but to pay the fee.
Again, the telecoms could set the price at a million-dollars-a-year if they were greedy enough. After all, Cruz and Napolitano are famous and might be able to afford it. And if they couldn’t afford it or refused to pay up, then the bandwidth used by their respective websites could be cut so drastically that it’d make it impossible for supporters and fans to see their stupid content. Or how about this? What if one of the telecom CEOs like Comcast’s Brian L. Roberts, who’s contributed to Democrats like Ed Rendell, suddenly decided he didn’t like Ted Cruz’s brinksmanship and obstructionist grabassery and consequently decided to block Cruz’s website? Totally permissible without codifying and enforcing net neutrality.
Briefly put, since they’re asking for it, let’s give Cruz and Napolitano an exemption from “Obamacare for the Internet” and see how excellent they think it is after, say, a month of financial hemorrhaging. What’ll it be, gentlemen? Care to try it first, you feckless buffoons?
Cruz and Napolitano are very clearly arguing in favor of allowing the telecoms to crush any site that can’t afford to pay for bigger pipes. Arguing that net neutrality means less public control over the internet and not more is what’s truly “Orwellian.”
PS. While we’re at it, let’s toss Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) into the experiment since they both oppose net neutrality as well. Good luck, boys.