Keeping up with controversy is what I do. Reading the news and trying to find the most ridiculous divides amongst society is super entertaining to me. Sure, I have my own opinions on stuff, but I do my best to keep them out of this blog, since none of you care. Recently, there’s been a fairly sizable amount of controversy over the issue net neutrality. Net neutrality, by definition, exists to treat all information on the internet the same, allowing for a free flow of information for consumers to eat right on up. So it’s baffling to me how politics is managing to divide public opinion.
President Obama has made it very clear he wants to pass legislation in favor of net neutrality. Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas aka the opposite of President Obama, has called net neutrality “the Obamacare of the internet”. If you aren’t familiar, Obamacare, or the more accurately named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, exists to provide everyone with healthcare. The controversy is the fact Obamacare basically makes it illegal to not have healthcare. Senator Cruz’s analogy doesn’t make sense.
You see, net neutrality isn’t set up to force anyone to do anything. It exists to provide protection against monopolies on the internet.
In this country, we have a thing called a Constitution. In this Constitution, we are guaranteed certain things. These things are called the Bill of Rights. Our first right in this Bill of Rights includes the provision that Congress cannot abridge our freedom of speech. When courts hear cases involving first amendment violations, a rationale typically applied is called “the marketplace of ideas” which suggests society is set up in a way that allows a complete and total free-for-all with speech. The best ideas will be listened to, and bad ideas will be ignored. The marketplace of ideas is really more of an economics driven way of thinking.
The internet is such an all-compassing entity now, it’s pretty much engrained in the fabrics of society. Everyone has the internet. In fact, President Obama argues the internet is now more of a right, rather than a privilege, and hopes every home in the country can have the internet. Regardless of whether to not you like the guy, this is a pretty accurate statement. The internet is literally a marketplace of ideas. On the internet, it’s up to you to make an informed, rational decision when faced with rhetoric online. Is your crazy uncle who claims 9/11 was a conspiracy correct? That’s up to you. Is your friend’s mom’s dog really the greatest dog in the world? You get to make the choice.
So where does net neutrality fit into all this nonsense? Net neutrality basically treats bits of information as packets. Under net neutrality, all of these packets must be distributed equally and fairly to ensure every entity online gets to compete. The Internet Service Providers are responsible for the equal distribution of these packages. So for example, you are one of the nine people on earth who use Bing as your primary search engine. Without net neutrality, Google could pay an ISP such as Comcast to either block Bing entirely, limit the number of search results Bing provides, or force users to pay extra for Bing. You can probably see how this may be a problem. Netflix, for example, could probably buy out every ISP and make an other video streaming site fail to exist. This, you might recognize, is called a monopoly.
What President Obama is suggesting is the internet is an extension of society, where the same principles apply. This means a monopoly is illegal (duh).
So how are people disagreeing to this? How can Senator Cruz sit back and say this is a bad thing? Well, according to open secrets.com, a site which displays the source of politician’s campaign funds, Comcast gave Mr. Cruz a nice little cut of dough. Now, I’m not the type to speculate, but isn’t this awfully fishy? A Senator accepts campaign funds from a company who would benefit greatly from no net neutrality, and then a while later he fires off some trash talk at the supporters of such a reasonable bit of legislation. Not that I’m suggesting any underhanded activity took place, but I feel it’s worth noting Cruz is on a subcommittee for technology, communications, and the internet. And he’s a ranking member, meaning he’s on of the more powerfully members of Congress.
All I’m saying is it’s kind of scary a guy with Cruz’s political clout is speaking out against something like net neutrality, and considering where a source of his campaign funds came from, it’s kind of sketchy.