Opinion

A Rebranding Worthy Of Don Draper: ‘Net Neutrality’ Is ‘Toasted’ Title II

Katie McAuliffe Executive Director, Digital Liberty

The phrase “net neutrality” has changed drastically over the years. In the beginning it was meant to prevent bad actors, particularly when it comes to blocking content or slowing down content for a competitive advantage. Some how Title II and net neutrality have become synonymous, but they are not.

Title II equates to far more regulation that will result in taxing those who send and receive data, limiting free speech, and implementing territorial borders around the Internet. Title II actually allows the government to block and slow down content.

America has managed to keep the rest of the world from controlling the Internet by differentiating between telephone and broadband service, but redefining broadband as Title II suddenly means broadband and telephone service are subject to the same regulations and the same fees.

When Russia, China, India, and the European Union all offered ways to restructure and restrict the flow of information on the Internet during the most recent International Telecommunications Union (ITU) meeting, America stood strong and said that taxing those who send data, limiting free speech, and implementing territorial borders around the Internet is unacceptable.

These ideas proposed at the ITU would make it harder to communicate across borders, develop pro-consumer network management, and limit entrepreneurs’ ability to manage data storage.

The “net neutrality” branding has evolved to cloak the more inaccessible Title II nomenclature. It is nothing short of Don Draper’s “It’s Toasted” Lucky Strike pitch on the AMC show “Mad Men”:

Don Draper (to Lucky Strike): Any ad that brings up the concept of cigarettes and health together, well, it’s just going to make people think of cancer … You can’t make those health claims; neither can your competitors.

Lee Garner, Sr: So we got a lot of people not saying anything that sells cigarettes.

Don Draper: Not exactly. This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal. We have six identical companies making six identical products. We can say anything we want. How do you make your cigarettes?

Lee Garner, Jr: I don’t know.

Lee Garner, Sr: Shame on you. We breed insect repellent tobacco seeds, plant ‘em in the North Carolina sunshine, grow it, cut it, cure it, toast it…

Don Draper: There you go. There you go. [Toasted.]

Lee Garner, Jr: But everybody else’s tobacco is toasted.

Don Draper: No, everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike’s is toasted.

All the things we stood against during the ITU debate would come to fruition in the United States with the Title II classification advocated by our president. Title II is “toasted.”

The toasted version of neutral is so successful that John Oliver can go on the air one day and promote “net neutrality” and on another day bash the Hungarian government for taxing the Internet.

If Title II is applied to broadband services, every American will see a 16.1 percent tax burden increase on Internet access because the Universal Service “Fee” of 16.1 percent on phone lines will automatically apply to broadband.

Consider another Don Draper pitch, “I Want It All.” But imagine the pitch, word for word, is coming from activist proponents of government control, “the agency” is the FCC, and the clients are President Obama and a Democrat controlled Congress:

President Obama: It doesn’t change the fact that we are happy with our agency.

Activists: Are you? You’re happy with 50 percent? You’re on top and you don’t have enough, you’re happy because you’re successful for now. But what is happiness? It’s the moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50 percent of anything. I want 100 percent. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it; you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it.

The government wants to control all of it. All the speeds, all the prices, all the spying on your data.

Some may think these quotes can be flipped the other way; that the happiness pitches are coming from your network providers. But the quotes cannot be flipped. Small or large; edge or core; start-up or establishment; mergers or no mergers, companies have to compete for consumer business. Governments, American or otherwise, do not compete. They control prices, tax, choose winners and losers, export regulations, and limit free speech and public organization.

In America We the People decide winners and losers, but neutral Title II Net is the “toasted” version of every other government’s struggle to control the free flow of information.

Katie McAuliffe is Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform and Executive Director of Digital Liberty