Republicans quickly jumped all over this, suggesting that President Obama wants to “regulate the internet”. For example, presidential candidate Ted Cruz tweeted that net neutrality is “Obamacare for the internet”:
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
The truth, of course, is that net neutrality prevents large for-profit corporations – not the federal government – from regulating the internet just as large phone companies have been restricted from the same thing with our phone lines.
My own “Representative” in Congress, Tim Walberg, issued this statement:
The President’s recently announced support for regulating the Internet as a utility is bad for consumers, entrepreneurs, and the future of our economy. The Internet has served as an engine for economic growth precisely because of its freedom from undue government regulation and interference. The FCC is an independent body and should resist this political pressure from the White House to regulate the internet in a way which will increase online censorship, kill jobs and limit future innovations.
If you’re concerned about “future innovations”, you should very much support net neutrality because, without it, the large corporations that can afford it can pay for the privilege of ensuring that new start-ups never get the chance to become competitors. In fact, according to a recent survey a vast majority of Americans — including 83% of those who identify themselves as “very conservative” — are in support of net neutrality rules.
So why would Walberg and other Republicans be against something that 83% of their constituents support? All you have to do is look at who funds them to know. Here are campaign contributions that Tim Walberg received over the past two years:
|Charter Communications PAC||$1,500|
|Comcast Corp. PAC||$2,000|
|Telecommunications Education Comm. Org.||$5,000|
|National Cable & Telecomm. PAC||$10,000|
|Koch Industries PAC||$10,000|
All of these groups are fighting to prevent net neutrality rules from being enacted. I included Koch Industries in that list because no fewer than three different Koch brothers front groups are fighting net neutrality tooth and nail: Americans for Prosperity, Watchdog.org, and American Commitment.
Tim Walberg is certainly not the only Republican lawmaker to benefit from the largesse of the large telecommunications groups, their PACs, and their supporters. According to the Time article, House Speaker John Boehner gets massive amounts of money from them, too:
Boehner, who was among the first to slam Obama’s call for net neutrality regulations yesterday, has received $107,775 from Comcast—nearly twice as much as any other other member of Congress. Boehner also holds stock in Comcast, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
So, if you want to know who is on the side of making sure the free market operates as freely on the internet as possible and who is on the side of the handful of huge corporations who oppose that, simply look at who is opposing net neutrality.
And look carefully at who pays them well for that opposition.