Skip to content

The Oatmeal explains Net Neutrality

Yesterday, I posted strong data showing that Obamacare was increasing competition and (consequently) health insurance costs were rising at the lowest rate in recent history. But of course, the people attacking Obamacare don’t care about facts.

The same day, Obama announced that he was going to fight for net neutrality, and urged the FCC to reclassify broadband networks as common carrier telecommunication services, which are subject to better regulation. It only took a few minutes for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to tweet:

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.

Ok, let’s ignore for a moment that Obamacare has almost nothing in common with net neutrality. But sure, now that we have hard data that shows that Obamacare increases competition and reduces costs, I’d go along with something that does the same thing for broadband internet.

The internet is obviously a telecommunication service. I have a telephone in my home, and even though it runs VoIP (Voice over IP), you can’t otherwise distinguish it from a landline telephone. Likewise, email, text messages, and Twitter, Facebook, and on and on … they are all telecommunication services. And the internet is threatened by the same monopoly control that plagued telephone networks before they were regulated as common carriers.

We need more competition in broadband. A large percentage of our population has only a single provider of broadband (and in many cases, what they call broadband has not kept up with the rest of the world). That is not competition. If you are lucky, maybe you have a choice of two providers. Telecoms have been fighting tooth and nail against any competition (Comcast and Time Warner, the two largest cable companies, are even trying to merge into one giant monopoly). I guess Cruz is comparing net neutrality to Obamacare because it will increase competition, and his campaign funders don’t want that.

Now, some people think the whole concept of net neutrality is esoteric and hard to understand. If so, go read the new post of The Oatmeal. He explains net neutrality in a way that even Ted Cruz could understand, and is very entertaining about it. The bottom line is that net neutrality is about freedom. I’d post the whole thing here but you should go read it. Now. You’ll thank me.

By the way, watch all the vague and misleading arguments coming out of the telecoms against net neutrality:

They claim that regulating the internet will kill it, or at least will decrease investment in it, reducing “innovation”. Well, first of all, our telecoms have been asleep at the wheel, and not investing in broadband. Even Bloomberg points out that there is absolutely no evidence that increased regulation in telecom would reduce investment. In fact, from 1998 to 2006, DSL (a form of broadband) was classified as a telecommunication service, and during that time it saw a dramatic increase in investment.

And when it benefited them, telecom companies have been all too happy to get more regulation. For example, in order to get access to public right-of-way, Verizon even asked for its broadband infrastructure to be classified as common carrier. So when Verizon says that regulations are bad, they are talking out of both sides of their mouth.

Telecoms also argue that the government shouldn’t control the internet, but that is absolutely backward. By classifying the internet as a telecommunication service, nobody will be able to control the internet. All internet traffic will be required to be treated equally. The only person able to control what you watch, will be you. Not the government, not your ISP, not some cable company, not an internet backbone company. As The Oatmeal says, net neutrality is about freedom.



  1. Michael wrote:

    I remember about a decade ago when Bush appointees to the FCC tried to define broadband as 128 Kbps. They argued that anything more than a dial-up modem qualifies as broadband. This is important to note because their rationale at the time was exactly what their real rationale for arguing against common carrier status in most cases: If this is a federal regulation, they will have to provide true broadband service to places like rural Montana, and their bean counters have told them that such investment would not be profitable.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    I am pretty sure common carrier status does not require universal service. And even if it did, Obama’s new proposal specifically states that there will be no rate caps. So the telecoms could charge whatever they want in rural Montana to cover their costs. There are advantages of common carrier status for the telecoms too.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  3. bmeyer wrote:

    Very glad to see Obama finally taking a stand in favor of Net Neutrality… I was worried when he appointed Wheeler to chair the FCC. Wheeler’s resume isn’t exactly neutral:

    “Prior to working at the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).”

    “In recognition of his work in promoting the wireless industry, Wheeler was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2009, as a result of his work in promoting the growth and prosperity of the cable television industry and its stakeholders, was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame. He is the only member of both halls of fame. Cablevision magazine named Wheeler one of the 20 most influential individuals in its history during cable’s 20th anniversary in 1995.”

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink