Net neutrality is one of those seemingly boring political issues that really should not be an issue at all. Support for net neutrality, or the concept that consumers should decide what content they view rather than being steered by their service providers, has universal support from the public, politicians, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and even the service providers themselves. Everyone supports an open internet where no content is prioritized because the person or company who owns it paid to have it put at the top of the pile. But no one apparently told that to Ted Cruz, who revealed his net neutrality playbook and his lack of understanding about the issue in one small soundbite.
For those who have not heard of net neutrality, it is pretty simple to explain. Net neutrality is the concept that the content of the internet should be neutral, available to everyone at reasonable rates of download and connection regardless of whether the person who owns the content is a money-rich corporation or a teenager with a blog. This is important because of news that some providers may decide to offer a “fast lane” where the content owner pays more money in order to have their content loaded faster than anyone else’s. Up until this point, however, much of the service providers’ policies have not been regulated by the government in any meaningful way. A possible merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable has made the argument more urgent because it would represent a virtual monopoly over a virtual world. Because of the importance of the internet in communication and information dissemination, President Obama voiced his support for the internet to be labeled a utility, like water of electricity, by classifying it under a law called Title II. This would allow the government to regulate the internet service providers so that they would not be abusing their power and hurting consumers. As the president pointed out in his video address, a large part of the public have voiced support for this step and now he has as well.
This is where the GOP’s star-of-the-moment stepped up to the plate and voiced his opposition to… what exactly? The Republican party supports net neutrality, in theory. As far as bi-partisan issues go, this is a good one. Supporting it can only make the conservatives more popular with internet users (meaning everyone). But now that the president has made his opinion known, there is a conservative voice of opposition. Even though the issue is popular. Even though the GOP already agrees with the president. Even though it is ridiculous to oppose it.
Ted Cruz, however, has chosen to ignore all of the good things about net neutrality and focus on using the GOP playbook: oppose Obama on everything. That is what he was doing when he called net neutrality “Obamacare for the internet.” Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, set Cruz straight on the matter in fewer words than it took Cruz to explain his own view by pointing out that “we have had net neutrality the entire history of the internet.” Obamacare, on the other hand, was put in place to fix something that did not exist in the first place. Whether someone agrees with the Affordable Healthcare Act or not, it is easy to see how Cruz’s analogy is simply wrong. Net neutrality already exists; Obamacare did not. There is simply no way they are alike.
But Ted Cruz is not letting go of his favorite (and so far only) net neutrality analogy for one simple reason: it is part of the GOP playbook. Immediately after the midterm elections, National Review Online posted an article called “The Governing Trap” in which they encouraged Republicans to treat the next two years like an extended presidential campaign, laying out the Republicans as an alternative to Democrats in the White House. Boiled down to its core, this article told the GOP to oppose everything Obama does from now until 2016. That is what Ted Cruz now seems to be doing with his net neutrality opposition.
The GOP playbook for the next two years has been set and Ted Cruz is obviously following it, otherwise he might have stayed quiet on the issue of net neutrality. No one looking at American politics right now should make the mistake of thinking that net neutrality is controversial, nor that opposing President Obama’s stance on it will prove popular. Cruz has already shown that he has no understanding of the issue and anyone who uses the internet (which means pretty much everyone) can see that. Instead, he is playing partisan politics which should surprise no one. Cruz is one of the Republicans rumored to be considering a run for president in 2016 and he is following the advice from National Review Online. He is going to oppose Obama no matter what, including on an issue that most American voters actually like.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury