With 20-odd US presidential candidates in the mix, everyone’s trying to pick the winning position on the issues that matter most to Americans. The future of the internet is obviously a big one. Here’s what’s been proposed so far — the good, the bad, and the utterly insane.
With the Federal Communication Commission’s new open internet rules hung up in litigation, pretty much anything goes. The craziest of candidates are talking about how liberals want to create a government-run internet that would amount to an apocalypse. (This will never happen.) The most sensible of candidates are proposing ways we could break up the big cable monopolies that provide Americans with shitty service at high prices. (This is harder than it sounds.) Inevitably, the would-be winner will help decide the fate of the network of networks, for better or for worse.
Here’s what’s being proposed so far:
The Republican senator from Texas says a lot of dumb stuff. Perhaps the dumbest came during the heat of the net neutrality debate, not long before he declared his candidacy for president:
As we said at the time, this take isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous.
Dubya’s brother is almost as clueless as Ted Cruz. This past march, Bush said of net neutrality: “The idea of regulating access to the Internet with a 1934 law is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.” The Republican presidential candidate apparently doesn’t understand how the FCC’s open internet rules work, nor does he know that the 1934 Telecommunications Act has been updated many times.
The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard should realize that the FCC’s open internet rules are good for Silicon Valley. Instead, she doesn’t seem to know how they work. She claims that the rules would give the government “nearly unlimited authority to micromanage how, when and where Internet companies innovate.” That’s just wrong.
Quite ironically, Rand Paul’s take on preserving the open internet misunderstands what liberty is. “This regulation by the FCC,” Paul said of the FCC rules, “is a textbook example of Washington’s desire to regulate anything and everything, and will do nothing more than wrap the Internet in red tape.” But the fact of the matter is we’ve learned that lack of regulation has actually led to monopolies that create bureaucracies that create ... red tape.
The New Jersey governor is famous for appealing to all kinds of voters, and he gets the internet half right. In a policy speech, he said quite clearly, “The fact is we need more broadband and wireless networks, not fewer.” But in the same breath he said that the government wants “to set prices and rules.” Which isn’t really true.
This one’s a bit of a mystery, but it’s a hopeful one. Huckabee’s stayed quiet on the internet issue this year. However, when he ran in 2007, the Republican suggested he was open minded about net neutrality: “In many ways we can look at the Internet kinda like we do an Interstate highway. Everybody has a right to get on that highway.”
This Democratic frontrunner knows how to look for middle ground. In an economic policy speech in July, she said she’d “make sure there is a greater diversity of providers so consumers have more choice.” This is an agreeable way of suggesting a policy that appeals to business interests and consumer advocates alike. Competition is good! Heck if Obama thinks it’s a good idea, Hillary should, too.
Vermont’s favorite hippie lawmaker is not beating around the bush. Sanders sent a letter to the FCC asking them to investigate “de facto monopolies” in the cable business. “This lack of choice has resulted in huge price increases and often poor service customers for consumers,” he wrote. Nobody likes monopolies. Whether the president could break them up, however, is a whole other issue.
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