Home Politics Opinion: Sorry Republicans, Net Neutrality is not ‘Obamacare for the Internet’

Opinion: Sorry Republicans, Net Neutrality is not ‘Obamacare for the Internet’

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It seems that a popular thing online, the past few years, is to talk about how much we hate our Internet and cable providers. From South Park’s recent parody to a Funny or Die video about how they deal with customer service, it seems we only get bad news when it comes to these companies. Even here in Athens, if you’re an upperclassman living off campus, odds are you have to deal with Time Warner’s monopoly on Internet and cable.

However, a couple of weeks ago, the consumers finally got a win when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reclassify Internet as telecommunication, rather than just a source of information. Under U.S. law, this allows the FCC to enforce net neutrality rules, the idea that Internet companies should not have the power to pick and choose how fast individual websites are. This is after years of a grass root effort on the Internet that advocated for these policies. The new FCC ruling will give the government the authority to ensure Internet service providers (ISPs) can no longer create Internet fast lanes and slow lanes for different websites.

An article from CNN shows how all of this works. Under the previous rules, ISPs could choose to give some websites a better connection to their customers over others. With the new rules, the FCC has the authority to stop ISPs from picking favorites. Why is this beneficial? One example is a company like Comcast that also owns NBC, in turn giving their own content better speeds. Another recent example was a debacle between internet provider Comcast and Netflix, where Netflix was forced to pay money directly to Comcast so their site could stream movies at a more reasonable speed, due to Comcast users of the site having a connection that was “so poor that Netflix’s streaming video service became unusable.” Netflix has faced off with other ISPs before as well; they even left a special message for people stuck on loading screen when in a fight with Verizon over the same issue. A larger company like Netflix may make enough money to pay off all the ISPs, but any small startup Internet company would likely lose out in a similar situation.

The Obama administration finally decided to act on this issue this year, first by mentioning it as a priority in his 2015 State of the Union speech. Not long afterwards, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote an op-ed for Wired detailing his plan for tackling the issue. Many major websites and companies have also hopped onto the bandwagon. There was even an open letter last year in favor of the policy signed by a wide number websites ranging from the biggest websites in the world, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to smaller, but still popular sites like Reddit and Tumblr. One would think with a policy that has this much support from major tech companies and popular websites, politicians would start coming around, but whenever there is business regulation involved, Republicans tend to side with the businesses.

Last summer, John Oliver tackled the issue in a segment on his HBO show, where he pointed out that despite this rare alliance of corporations and activists, ISPs monopoly has extended as far the highest points of our government. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was a lobbyist for ISPs before being appointed by President Obama. The president has also spoken in the homes of cable executives for fundraisers and has even been seen golfing with the CEO of Comcast.

While many Democrats are switching sides on the issue,  Republicans are still waging opposition to net neutrality. Most recently, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn proposed a law called the “Internet Freedom Act” that would end these recent changes by the FCC. She also said her “legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations.” It probably isn’t coincidental that 29 of the bill’s 31 co-sponsors received major campaign donations from the telecom industry. Many potential Republican nominees for president hold similar views, with frontrunner Jeb Bush calling the FCC’s ruling “the craziest idea I’ve ever heard” and Sen.Ted Cruz incorrectly calling Net Neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet.”

It appears the main argument against net neutrality is that it is just another attempt by liberals to bring unnecessary regulation into an industry that doesn’t need it. Yet, as John Oliver showed, ISPs are incredibly monopolistic, even cartel-like by agreeing between one and another on which company gets control of which cities. Opponents say net neutrality will limit competition, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Small businesses and organizations can ensure they get the same connection speeds as multibillion dollar corporations. The best part is consumers like us, who already suffer enough from Internet monopolies, don’t have to be the victims of a dispute between an ISP and the owner of a popular website. We live in a new digital era where the Internet has become a necessity for our lives, and this ruling has ensured the government will protect that right. This may not solve all of the problems we have with ISPs, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

 

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2 Comments

  1. […] that would overturn the FCC’s open internet protections and block what she has falsely labeled “job-killing […]

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  2. […] that would overturn the FCC’s open internet protections and block what she has falsely labeled “job-killing […]

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