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From Ted Cruz to Tim Wu: What the web is saying about Obama’s net neutrality plan

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President Obama issued a strong and specific statement Monday morning calling for the Federal Communications Commission to ensure network neutrality by classifying broadband providers as a utility under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act resulting in what I can only imagine were waves of spit takes in the offices of ISPs, newspapers and internet companies. Within 20 minutes of the president issuing his lengthy combined video and web proposal calling for Title II to apply not only to wireline but also to all wireless broadband and at interconnection points, Verizon had issued a statement threatening to sue if the FCC did as President Obama asked. Within just a few minutes, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had posted an inflammatory tweet.

And the commentary just kept coming. We’ve decided to roll as much as we could into a post that will help highlight the novel and high-quality thoughts on the web about the president’s statement and what it might mean for the internet. Feel free to read our coverage on the news here or my colleague Jeff John Roberts’ story about the political and legal issues the FCC will face here. But for deeper reading, dive on in to the following stories.

  • Every statement made by anyone: Broadcasting & Cable pulled together the statements from Verizon, CTIA, Michael Copps, a former Democratic FCC Commissioner, and many others in this hodge-podge of statements on the president’s proposal. It won’t surprise you, but it’s nice if you want to figure out the words your Congressmen will be using in the weeks ahead to argue over the plans.
  • Tim Wu on Comcast’s merger and the FCC’s middle ground: Over at The Verge, Nilay Patel did a sit down with Tim Wu, the man who coined the phrase net neutrality. Wu thinks the president’s actions were important and sincere and details the FCC’s next steps. He also digs into the role Comcast’s plans to buy Time Warner Cable have played into the network neutrality debate:

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”I think Comcast has made net neutrality feel a little more visceral and a little less hypothetical. The truth is that there have been way more comments on net neutrality after the Comcast merger. We live in a world of both cultural and political subcultures, and when people get fired up about things, they get fired up, and net neutrality is one of those issues. I would not underestimate the strength of the interest in net neutrality and that people care about it.”

  • Why Obama decided to come out on Title II now: Brian Fung at the Washington Post argued it was Obama’s position as the punching bag for the Republican party and subsequent Democratic drubbing during the mid-terms that meant the president could now speak his mind now, but couldn’t do so before the elections.

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”Whatever its merits, imagine Cruz’s rhetorical argument being played and replayed in countless political ads around the country, tying Democratic candidates to Obama’s “government takeover of the Web.” As it happened, the midterms could hardly have turned out much worse for liberals. But adding net neutrality to the mix would not have helped.”

  • What Obama’s statement doesn’t cover: The Wall Street Journal delved briefly into forbearance — the rules that the FCC will have to decline to enforce if it decides to regulate ISPs under Title II. The story’s co-author Gautham Nagesh also discussed the issue on Twitter.

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”While Mr. Wheeler’s so-called hybrid plan would be apply utility-like regulations to part of broadband, Mr. Obama wants the agency to reclassify the entire network under Title II of the Communications Act, then enact bright line rules banning broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or giving preferential treatment to some websites.Mr. Obama also called for the FCC not to use its authority to regulate broadband prices or impose other outdated regulations designed for the phone network.”

  • More on rate regulation and alternative points of view: Alex Howard has an excellent and link-filled run down of today’s news that covers the political climate, timing, opposing points of view and a bit more on the issue of forbearance.

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”Forbearing from rate regulation, or artificially controlling the price for a set level of service, would address one of the most significant objections to Title II that have been raised by American telecommunications companies. Other countries, like Argentina, are going a different route.”

  • Understanding the nitty-gritty on forbearance: Should the FCC go forward with Title II the issue of forbearance is going to become hot. To understand what’s at stake, check out Harold Feld’s deep post on the legal history and issues around the topic.

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”Actual forbearance is a fairly straightforward 3-part process established in the Communications Act. Basically, the FCC needs to find that a section isn’t necessary to make sure that everything is working in a just and nondiscriminatory way, that the section isn’t necessary to protect consumers, and that not enforcing the section is consistent with the public interest.”

  • What does an economics-loving conservative think? If you’re after a deeper discussion than the carriers going on about the end of innovation or Cruz’s crazy comments, check out this post from James Heaney on natural monopolies, hot dogs and why he thinks that conservatives have to support Title II reclassification as the best way to solve the problem of ISPs acting as natural monopolies without creating a huge government bureaucracy.

    [blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”The fix to the growing monopoly problem is very, very easy, and several courts have pointed to it over the past several years: simply revisit the obviously nonsensical ruling of 2002. Overturn it, and (correctly) decide this time that Internet Service Providers are “telecommunications providers”. Instantly, every ISP in America would go back to common carrier status, and net neutrality regulation wouldn’t just become easy; in many ways, neutrality is baked into Title II. The FCC would gain many tools to reduce the risk of natural monopoly where it doesn’t exist, or its effects where it does. The market would be saved, the consumer freed from the tyranny of monopoly.”

I’m sure in the days ahead there will be plenty of other stories and insights to share. But what seems to be definitive in my reading and reporting on the topic is that the president’s statements caught many by surprise and that the FCC will now have to spend some time trying to get more data before its ready to claim Title II is the way forward. And that is going to take longer than the planned December vote on the open internet and will be something that we’re going to be discussing well into the new year. That means a decade since the net neutrality rules made their first appearance in 2005 we’ll still be discussing them.

9 Responses to “From Ted Cruz to Tim Wu: What the web is saying about Obama’s net neutrality plan”

  1. commandersprocket

    Net Neutrality is being fought tooth and nail by the children of Ma Bell, like Ma Bell they are corrupt to the core. The internet is a Utility with a natural monopoly. The handful of large providers that are left in the US are criminal organizations that are hurting our business capacities more than raising our minimum wage to equal any other country on earth.
    We (US citizens) have already paid for fiber and the last mile of connectivity: to the tune of 400 Billion dollars through tax breaks and extra fees to the phone companies. This started in the Clinton administration and continues till today. In the Clinton administration the “baby bells” were given a mandate and incentives to make the US #1 in broadband via fiber optic (and coaxial) to the home. What happened is that the “baby bells” took the money and merged… and merged… and merged. They were lying about the great things they would do when they merged along the way, saying they would spend $16 Billion on infrastructure in California, and taking capital tax write offs as if they did…but never putting the infrastructure in place. Till we’re now in nearly the same position that we were before Ma Bell was taken apart as a monopoly. I am not, as a rule, in favor of nationalizing businesses, but it is abundantly clear that our telecos have a strangle hold on both our politicians and the FCC. When a private entity takes so much control (through deceit and bribery) of a UTILITY infrastructure so basic to the economy, and wields monopoly power (or duopoly, or oligopoly) to the detriment of more than 99% of our country, we need to give those entities the death sentence. Why do I feel they’ve caused so much harm? “Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in 33 OECD countries, quantifies the isolated impact of broadband speed, showing that doubling the broadband speed for an economy increases GDP by 0.3%”. Given the speeds promised in 2000 by the baby bells (25MB bi directional by 2000, with promises of 45MB bi directional by 2006) we’ve been robbed out of (conservatively) 1.2%-1.5% GDP growth over 13 years (a total of more than 2.5 Trillion dollars). So… in exchange for paying (in tax breaks and subsidies) more than $300 Billion dollars, they’ve effectively stolen more than $2,500,000,000,000 or about $8333 for every man, woman and child in the US. The telecommunications companies we have in the US are not collectively worth the $2.8 Trillion they’ve stolen/devalued, so it would be quite reasonable to put them in public receivership.

    • That sounds great, but this is America. Go ahead and buy your food with food stamps and drive your tax break commuter car. The biggest waste is the money that government spends. You want them to run your internet? Are you insane? As if we live in denial of the warrentless tapping of our private conversations. The fact is we have the best internet in the world with multiple companies competing over the air and land. It is not the fastest but it is the most robust. Check for yourself. Reliability is more important than speed when it comes to commerce. Government lives on a four year cycle. I don’t want to entrust our internet to politicians who would stab their mom to get re-elected.

      • C Scott Willy

        “The fact is we have the best internet in the world with multiple companies competing over the air and land.”

        A laughable false statement.

        Come to France for Internet competition…all of France has four Internet service providers competing for our business. We pay ~33 USD per month for basic cable, 15Mbps Internet, and unlimited phone calls. In France we don’t need Title II because we have competition and not crony capitalism, thanks to a smart French FCC.

      • RFO Jefferson

        Wow. Have you fallen for the Retardli-CON big time. Follow the money, and you’ll find that, again and again, you’ve been ripped off by the corporations–aided and abetted by the Republican Party. Dude, how blind are you? The ONLY thing standing between you and the rest of the 99 percent being serfs is the government. What was founded in 1776? The U.S. government. Every single thing the Rs complain about, using their “this will fool the low IQs” con approach, is that the corporations and the 1% that are their bread-and-butter are blocked from raping the rest of us even more. The Rs are standing up for you here? Really? REALLY? Hang on, I’m checking the spelling of “dummkopf.” If you want the government–which, by the way, built the internet with our funding, not these corporations trying to make tons of money for lots of doing-nothing–to roll over and let the private telecoms take it over, well, kiss open access to the internet goodbye. You right-wing types never get it: The only thing protecting you IS the government. GFL.

  2. Thank you for this survey of the busy day’s worth of commentary. Interesting remarks by James Heaney, but he is not economics-loving any more than the rest of us, and possibly much less. He is free-market loving.