For years, progressives have claimed that net neutrality Internet regulations have the support of “millions” of Americans. They push fear-mongering rhetoric, time after time falsely making doomsday “end of the Internet” predictions, unless government steps in to regulate. And, worse, they have led President Obama, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and some members of Congress to actually believe that net neutrality is not just good policy, but good politics.
That final myth was firmly put to bed in the midterm elections.
Five days before November 2, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) announced that ninety-five Democratic candidates for the U.S. House and Senate had signed a pledge promising to enact net neutrality regulations if elected.
Every single signer of the Net Neutrality Pledge lost their election on Tuesday night. They included big name Senate hopefuls Alexi Giannoulias (D-Ill.), Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), and Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.). In fact, going into the election only one signer (Ann Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2ndDistrict) was leading in the polls, and she lost by 2 percentage points.)
Most of these races were decided well before the pledge was released. However, it’s clear that those who demand Internet regulations are so radically progressive that Americans overwhelmingly view them as unacceptable candidates. Net neutrality zealots simply do not share the same view as the 75 percent of Americans who believe Internet is “working well” and the 55 percent of Americans opposed to regulating it, according to a recent poll. A vast, bipartisan majority of over 300 members of Congress have realized this and stated opposition to the FCC’s “Title II” plot to regulate the Internet.
Net neutrality is not just a political loser; it’s a horrendous policy. The candidates’ Net Neutrality Pledge used flowery and meaningless language to propose severely onerous regulations. They promised “to protect net neutrality for the entire Internet — wired and wireless,” to ensure there is “free speech online,” and to stand against “any attempt by big corporations to control the Internet.” Yet none of the regulations resulting from this hollow rhetoric would benefit American consumers.
Despite claiming that net neutrality is “the First Amendment of the Internet,” there is concern that such regulations could lead to government actually monitoring or censoring speech online. The few groups pushing for net neutrality, such as Free Press, have already called for the FCC to monitor online speech. The Songwriters Guild of America has pointed out that if the FCC adopts the first round of Internet regulations with such unfounded legal precedent, what is stopping them from censoring online speech, just as they love to do in numerous other entertainment mediums? And when groups like Free Press aren’t busy trashing the First Amendment, they’re advocating a new “right” to Internet access.
Net neutrality also has numerous anti-consumer side effects that supposedly pro-consumer candidates and organizations conveniently ignore. They wrongly demonize Internet service providers (ISPs) for trying to “control the Internet,” demanding that the federal government manage the networks these companies built instead. Yet ISPs are simply managing data traffic on Internet networks to reduce congestion and increase speed. Even European regulators have admitted these practices benefit consumers and are necessary for data-heavy services like video-conferencing and VoIP phone calls.
Just before the election, PCCC, the group pushing the net neutrality pledge, was asked why each candidate will likely lose their election. Their co-founder, Adam Green, blamed Democrats for not fighting hard enough on the public option and “protecting democracy and the Internet from corporate takeover.” In short, PCCC blamed Democrats for not being as progressive as the signers of his net neutrality pledge. PCCC then wrongly claimed after the election that Republicans didn’t campaign on it because “such a position is a big political loser” — a hilarious spin given how his net neutrality supporters faired.
In an election in which anti-regulation candidates decidedly trounced these pro-regulation ones, perhaps the FCC and the White House should review the public’s tolerance for radically progressive ideas, like net neutrality.
Kelly William Cobb is executive director of Americans for Tax Reform’s Digital Liberty Project.