WASHINGTON, November 13, 2014 – Net neutrality has been the hottest topic in tech policy for months. Politicians on the left say their opponents stand foursquare against the tenets of a free and open internet. Politicians on the right that their adversaries are trying to apply outmoded and outdated legislation to cripple the innovative essence that has allowed the internet to blossom over the past two decades.
In light of President Obama’s recent remarks, major congressional Republicans have been bashing net neutrality. Sen. Ted Cruz called net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet,” and Speaker of the House John Boehner said, “net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship,” in a statement on Monday.
The weird thing is: Everyone actually wants the same thing.
Looking beyond the partisan mantras, the people and groups on all sides of the issue agree on the fundamental principles of net neutrality: 1) no blocking of legal content, 2) no throttling, 3) increased transparency and 4) no paid prioritization.
Advocacy groups like Public Knowledge, Free Press, EFF and the ACLU have been rallying their faithful behind net neutrality for some time, supporting online protests like September’s Slow Lane Protest.
Yet it’s not exclusively liberals and left-wing advocacy groups that support net neutrality. In a blog post on Tuesday, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen reiterated his company's support for with the principles of net neutrality, although they are obligated to follow the tenants of the Federal Communications Committee's 2010 Open Internet Order as part of its merger with NBC Universal.
Verizon Communications, who won their case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in January that struck down prior net neutrality protections of the 2010 Open Internet Order, also came out in support of the need for consumer and competitive protections. In fact, Time reported that a recent poll from the Internet Freedom Business Alliance showed that conservative voters overwhelmingly support the ideas of net neutrality.
How to actually implement net neutrality protections is the point of contention. The existing framework of the Communications Act of 1934 provides the public utility approach of Title II. The 1996 Telecommunications Act provides the light-touch approach of Section 706. Then there is a potential hybrid approach making use of a combination of authorities. Still others seek to update the framework of our nation’s telecom laws and have been looking to rewrite the Communications Act more in keeping with modern, converged technologies.
The argument over how to implement net neutrality is ultimately going to involve some compromise and could be an area where the new Republican Congress can rally bipartisan support with Democrats.
Net neutrality didn’t use to be, and doesn’t need to be, a partisan issue. At the end of the day, consumers want some of internet protections, and both urban and rural Americans want faster and more reliable broadband speeds.