The FCC ruled in favor of a free and open Internet in 2015, but the battle against that stance continues. Industry groups are appealing the FCC decision, in the hopes that they can delay or prevent the government from reclassifying broadband as a utility. President Obama was a strong advocate for net neutrality, and the next president will have an equally important influence, whichever side of the debate they’re on.
Hillary Clinton has indicated support for net neutrality. She gave two thumbs up to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal for strong net neutrality rules, though admitted it was only a “foot in the door.” Clinton has expressed concern that regulations could mean stagnant competition among service providers, saying “we’ve got to do more about how we incentivize competition in broadband.” And she’s committed to fighting broadband monopolies, citing Google Fiber in Kansas City as a perfect example of what she wants to see everywhere in the US.
Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure proposal, which some have called “modest,” includes a section on developing US broadband infrastructure, though no specific budget is mentioned. She’s also promised to continue Obama’s progress on bringing 5G networks to the US, but those networks wouldn’t realistically be widely adopted until the end of her (theoretical) first term.
Bernie Sanders is so pro net neutrality, his face is probably on dart boards in Verizon and Comcast offices across the nation. In 2014, he gave a fiery Senate speech in support of reclassifying broadband under Title II, even saying that fast lanes “were grotesquely unfair.” Sanders also led an effort to go after fraudulent cable and broadband pricing, and he’s openly stated that Broadband access “is a necessity, not a luxury.”
The Vermont senator’s own $1 trillion infrastructure plan is the closest of any candidate’s promise to the American Society of Civil Engineer’s own $3.6 trillion estimate needed to repair America’s deteriorating infrastructure by 2020. (However, some economists have questioned the Sanders campaign’s math.) Of that large chunk of change, Sanders would spend $5 billion a year for five years improving connectivity and speeds in the US. The only question is whether Sanders can pass such a costly plan without Republican interference.
Donald Trump does not support net neutrality. Actually, he thinks it will lead to the censorship of conservative media. “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he tweeted in 2014.
The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC policy that began in the 1940s and ended in 1987. The Washington Post has a good summary of what it was all about:
The Fairness Doctrine [...] required that TV and radio stations holding FCC-issued broadcast licenses to (a) devote some of their programming to controversial issues of public importance and (b) allow the airing of opposing views on those issues. This meant that programs on politics were required to include opposing opinions on the topic under discussion. Broadcasters had an active duty to determine the spectrum of views on a given issue and include those people best suited to representing those views in their programming.
So Trump was suggesting that net neutrality regulations would lead to censorship of online media that doesn’t include opposing opinions. That’s a ridiculous suggestion, since the net neutrality regulations had nothing to do with the content of the internet.
Ted Cruz called net neutrality “Obamacare for the internet” and “the biggest regulatory threat to the internet.” He does not support net neutrality regulations, and believes that regulations like the ones introduced by the Obama Administration will stymie innovation. Instead of viewing net neutrality policy as a way to preserve how the internet works, Cruz sees it as government meddling that will ruin it.
“If you want the federal government regulating prices and terms of sale on the Internet, deciding which websites are OK and which are not, then net neutrality is a great idea,” Cruz said during a campaign stop this year.
Cruz continued his takedown in a Washington Post op-ed. “It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices.” Cruz very rarely speaks about broadband access, but when he does, he mentions expanding access but also plans to cut infrastructure spending.
Marco Rubio opposes net neutrality so strongly he penned a nearly 1,000-word essay (called Government is crashing the Internet Party) about it on Politico. In the essay, Rubio claims that the FCC’s plan to regulate the internet is illogical, because any deals made by ISPs to create fast lanes will “benefit consumers by allowing highly tracked sites to accommodate their visitors.”
Rubio also thinks the internet should not be considered a public utility. He says that would give an extraordinary amount of power to “an unelected, unaccountable board that every lobbyist, lawyer and crony capitalist with a vested interest in the Internet will seek to manipulate.”
Instead, Rubio wants to keep the internet largely unregulated. He created a resolution with the help of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asking the federal government to opposed the United Nation’s internet regulatory power International Telecommunications Union from governing US broadband. The resolution was passed by both chambers of Congress.