Yesterday, President Obama came out in defense of Net Neutrality and strongly urged the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II utility, citing that it has become essential to the everyday lives of Americans both professionally and personally. This is as true a statement as any that has been made in the fight against telecommunication companies’ crusade to make even more money by defiling free speech, freedom of press, and freedom of information in the 21st century. In a rare moment of complete clarity and seeming bi-partisan (or even extra-partisan), the President offered reasonable urgings to the FCC to allow the internet to remain a free, open, and equitable venue for Americans. Of course, this statement came after months of protesting and debate. One has to wonder where the President has been on this issue and why the timing of this statement has come just after the election of an ostensibly adversarial Republican controlled Congress for the remainder of his term.
Certainly, the President has had some big fish on his plate of late. From the growing threat of ISIS, Ebola, and the GOP, one could say that the threat of limiting growth of the economy for decades and making information less available in an age defined by access to information–in essence the limiting of any number of American rights including those of the First Amendment–might fall low on the pecking order.
Wait. Actually, no.
You see, the President doesn’t set policy on this issue, and for that matter neither does the Congress. The FCC is an independent body that doesn’t answer directly to the Federal Government in the ways that say the CIA or the FBI do. So the short, public statement that Mr. Obama made on the matter could have some at any point in the last half a year since the Net Neutrality debate started kicking up dirt. The fact that the President waited until after the election is more an act of Political Bullfighting.
The President, despite all criticism, is political savvy and is now working to use the rest of his term to set up Democratic victory in 2016. The obstructionist Republican minority is all set to become the adversarial GOP Congress–and will likely take the standpoint of “anything the President/Democrats is/are for we are against”. The President also knows that many of the GOP Congressmen have been bankrolled by companies like Verizon, Comcast, and COX much as Wall Street firms bankroll everyone and Education Reformists line the pockets of Democrats. This first move on the chessboard, in this case was successful and GOP superstar Ted Cruz (a clear Presidential hopeful for 2016) took the bait.
Cruz (R-Texas), stepped up to Twitter and called Net Neutrality the internet version of Obamacare and that the internet cannot afford to work at the speed of government. The irony of using Twitter to make any statement against Net Neutrality aside, Cruz displayed a complete lack of understanding about what Net Neutrality is and how it actually espouses conservative ideology of free markets and regulatory non-interference. The Oatmeal took a humorous and accurate swipe at this fact almost immediately following the Tweet. Unfortunately, and despite his rhetoric, Cruz like Obama has proven just to be another owned politician focusing on the super-special interests of his bank rollers, hiding these machinations behind political smokescreens.
In the meanwhile, the FCC has stated that they will take the President’s recommendation along with the 4 million other civilian comments it has received. As the FCC is not directly influenced by the Executive Branch, the President’s comments are just a demarkation of public opinion–and there is plenty of opinion on both sides of the aisle against limiting of the internet, throttling speeds of sites, and creating filtered versions of the internet specific the ISP you pay for.
Frightfully, Mr. Cruz cannot be as easily dismissed. The Congress, while not having direct political control of the FCC does have power to legislate and regulate its bailiwick–and Cruz is the chair of the Congressional Committee that oversees the internet. The fact that Mr. Cruz ran directly through the red cape, horns forward in Obama’s latest feint shows that he is not as savvy as the President in the long game or that he has no sense of Net Neutrality or that he is openly willing to appease his backers in the face of what is right and wrong. Or all of it.
As the GOP and the Democrats start politicking and politicizing our rights and our ability to have a 21st century economy with 21st century availability of information, the country will inevitably suffer. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of greed and intellectual oppression, and one of the most paramountly important issues facing domestic policy today. This isn’t about being able to get on Netflix or YouTube with quick streaming…its about accessibility and equity of information. As the internet becomes more and more integral to our professional and personal lives, we can’t allow corporations to control the speed at which we can participate in the economy.
The death of Net Neutrality will be the first step the United States takes toward Third World status within a generation. While all other industrial or post-industrial nations are upping their access to internet we’re looking to limit it on the potential of dollars for a few and the political gain of the oligarchy. These partisan bullfights amount to nothing more than politicians serving up bullshit and calling it chocolate.