An issue that has been bubbling up in Washington for nearly a decade is the question of “net neutrality”. The concept has taken on many forms over the years but basically boils down to whether an internet service provider can or cannot provide special treatment of certain web traffic over other web traffic. For a current example, see the battle between Netflix and many service providers around the country.

As a political issue, the question seems to fall on whether you believe internet service providers should be more regulated (in favor of net neutrality) in how they treat certain traffic versus a more hands-off approach (opposed to net neutrality) letting the market and private companies decide for themselves.

Report and candidates positions from The Hill:

A handful of potential 2016 candidates are rushing to define their position on net neutrality following President Obama’s call for the Federal Communications Commission to impose tougher regulations.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) was one of the first out of the gate, quickly tying Obama’s proposal to treat the Internet like other public utilities to ObamaCare.

“The biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is net neutrality,” he said. “In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.” [Emphasis added]

Obama said the FCC should impose regulations that would prevent some companies from purchasing faster Internet lanes to deliver their services. His comments were seen as a strong defense for net neutrality.

The issue is not expected to play a significant role in the 2016 presidential election, but activists on both sides said the issue is important to base voters in both parties.

Other 2016 contenders weighed in this week as well. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) expressed opposition, while Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) supported the president.

Others, including Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, have not taken a position. Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) office did not respond for a request for comment. [Emphasis added]

As you can see, the current distinction is between ideological lines though some GOP candidates have reserved judgment, for now. This issue, while not a front-burner issue in 2016, could very well be legislated in coming years and potential end up at the Supreme Court.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I waited to see what people would say on this. I have a few minutes right now, so I thought I’d weigh in.

    This strikes me as a liberarian issue. Should we all get a crack at the same Internet?

    Providers are trying to portray it as just wanting to charge the heavy users more to get their job done right. That’s a good argument. . .except that the Internet is a zero-sum game. The “pipes” will only carry so much. You’ve probably experienced that if you log in at 8 am, or use a wifi with a lot of other people. If these folks pay extra to get better service, you’ll pay the same–to get less. End result: extra profits for big cable to provide the very same overall product.

    Of course, then there’s the Cuban-Canadian crafting propaganda, just to be obstinate. . .or maybe it’s the tens of thousands of dollars he’s received in campaign donations from big cable. Regardless, as usual, Cruz has tried to reduce the discussion to name-calling idiocy.

    Also as usual, Rand Paul has tried to duck the issue. And that’s Rand’s ongoing problem. Americans like a strong leader. We’d rather be led the wrong way than to wonder what the leader thinks. Look at Iraq–the public was almost unanimously against invasion until it happened. Then it was all U-S-A!! U-S-A!! And that’s also why Obama is unpopular. He thinks too much. In Shakespearian terms, Americans don’t want President Hamlet, we want President Richard III.

    But, apparently, nobody here cares about the Internet, so I guess this is just for you, Nate.

    • It’s one of those things nobody cares about until it affects them.

      Libertarian on the matter could go both ways. Either on the side of private business, i.e. let the market decide and if an ISP wants to throttle data, that’s up to them.. or on the side of consumers i.e. the consumer is paying for internet access so the ISP should not interfere in throttling certain traffic.

      Not a bread and butter issue.. only the nerds care now.

      • It isn’t a matter of not caring but keeping our yap shut because we don’t know that much about it. …unless of course you’re Surfisher!

        • Bob, I wasn’t singling out others on the site, I mean the public in general. Those who care little about any political issues. Sorry for the offense.

          Pretty much everyone who bothers to read and comment on political websites cares quite a bit.

          • It wasn’t taken as a slight from either one of you. I didn’t put it quite as diplomatic as I could have but I admit I have to step back and concede the floor at times.

  2. Basic definition of net neutrality (from wikipedia):
    “Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet
    equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user,
    content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or
    mode of communication.”

    In a statement, net neutrality is communism for the internet.

    To me, those who are for net neutrality either don’t understand the mechanics issue, or they are the same people who believe they know what’s best for everyone else (philosophically communist). Being in the IT world, I’ve seen that performance received by the end user can be assigned to their ID, and yes, it is possible that on the same big box of hardware you have some individuals who are getting more performance than others. It is also possible for a company to stand up completely separate hardware to provide internet service…more expensive hardware…to provide a higher level of performance at a higher cost.

    While the mechanics of the situation are different, the principals are still the same as any product or service. Person A (or corporation A) creates a product/service to sell to Person B (or corporation B)…for mutual benefit. The complaint people have here is the same greedy complaint everywhere else in a free market – It’s not fair that someone else has more money than me and can buy something I want but can’t afford. This is inverted greed.

    Libertarians would say…let the market decide
    Conservatives would say…let the market decide (except for the moral deviants)
    Liberals would say…I know what’s best for everyone and I will decide

    This net neutrality is an inversion of the capitalist system, because it is essentially socialistic/communistic in its approach. The capitalist system says, the proportion you are willing to pay determines what you get. The socialist/communist (net neutrality) says, the proportion you are able to pay is irrelevant to what you get because everyone gets the same thing.

    Internet performance is nothing more complex than the Can and String phone game. Companies can do a lot with the cans and strings to create performance people want, the thing is not everybody wants (or can afford) the same thing…and that’s OK.

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