A very frustrating aspect of modern politics is its predictable variation from principle. The mainstream media feeds the vast majority of American ears a fable of two sides’ ideological stances against one another, but the reality is a different kind of predictability.
The only surprise comes when politicians stick to their principles over craven campaign donation calculations. Take net neutrality, which President Obama declared a top priority this week in asking the FCC to enact tough rules maintaining an open Internet. Net neutrality is simply this: not letting one company or another control Internet speed or website accessibility — anywhere in the country. It’s something that real progressives and real conservatives should, and have, gotten behind a long time ago. Progressives prize its enabling of free access to information, while conservatives champion the policy’s refusal to let one company use its size to strangle the Internet free market. Really, both angles are important to true ideologues on both sides.
But Congress has few of these actual ideologues, and Ted Cruz is the poster child for the problem. A man who successfully seized the mantle of “most conservative Congressman” somehow feels that public forums should be divided up by private interests. Here’s what he tweeted on Monday:
“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
The most important thing to know before diving into why this claim is ludicrous: Ted Cruz has taken $47K from Big Telecom (see the breakdown here). In a very real way, Cruz has a fiduciary responsibility, in our broken political system, to stand up for companies like AT&T, Verizon, and ComCast. Everything he says on this is more the statement of a hired spokesman than a U.S. Senator.
Here’s why the claim is wrong, and it’s so simple even children understand it quickly. Net neutrality makes it illegal to put a speed limit — or website accessibility filter — on the Internet. It enables the Internet to move at its fastest pace, unhampered by the power and profit motive of one company. It treats the Internet like the important, problematic, impactful public forum that it is. To deny its status is like sticking your head in the sand until it’s 1987 again. Just like we would balk at allowing private companies to determine when citizen groups can meet to discuss their views, so too should we balk at private companies’ having any say over our Internet usage.
Of course, the mainstream media is already taking the “Obamacare for the Internet” claim without any objective comment on its content.