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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > Opinion: Senator Ted Cruz off the mark with net neutrality comments

Opinion: Senator Ted Cruz off the mark with net neutrality comments
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Nov 17, 2014, 08:55 AM
 
After President Barack Obama urged the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) to consider Title II regulation of Internet service providers in order to treat them like a utility, numerous individuals and companies spoke in opposition. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was one such politician, equating net neutrality to "Obamacare" for the Internet. Though Cruz explained his reasoning during a talk in Austin, Texas late last week, his "don't mess with the Internet" sound bite seems confused. Does his stance on the way the Internet should be treated add up?



Cruz launched into his recent net neutrality campaign by sounding off on Twitter after Obama proposed his net neutrality plan to the FCC on November 10. His communications director followed suit, shedding some light that perhaps the Cruz office doesn't understand some of the basic concepts of net neutrality to begin with. Equating the idea of net neutrality and Title II regulation to "Obamacare"--something he's adamantly opposed to and wants to repeal--Cruz believes that it will actually harm innovation if more control is given to the federal government much like the regulation telephone carriers witnessed in 1934, with subsequent revisions in 1996.

There is a degree of truth in what Cruz is eluding to when he points out that there isn't a need for government to step in, as he states "it's a fight between big boys." Depending how the future regulations pan out, the idea that net neutrality is harmful to the free market is a valid thought. With the "big boys" currently duking it out at the cost of the consumer, they could potentially act as gate keepers to all traffic to consumers. This is precisely why the net neutrality debate started, so no matter the outcome of any squabbles in the market consumers and business will always play on a level field.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable hold near monopolies in their service areas, with little overlap with other big service providers. Cruz said that it isn't the government's role to pick "winners and losers" by flexing its authority muscle. For all the Internet competition and innovation that Cruz says the American public wants, the first step in risking the unique opportunities that the Internet provides is introducing government regulation. The fight isn't necessarily about delivery, provision and consumer choice, but rather how the traffic is treated and keeping the same accessibility everyone in the US has enjoyed for years.

"And by the way, if anyone thinks the federal government coming in regulating will somehow help the little guy, I've got a bridge to sell you in Amarillo," said Cruz.

Cruz pulled out a rotary telephone to illustrate his point that the common carrier regulation shouldn't apply to a device that, in his opinion, was regulated down to a point that innovations no longer emerged from the market. After saying that the old telephone was regulated by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, he held up his iPhone to provide a contrasting point in how the smartphone wasn't regulated. While the point was being made that the Internet, apps and smartphones themselves don't face the same regulation as landline telephony hardware, he was slightly off the mark since the telephone service provided on them is regulated. That's to say nothing of how spectrum is regulated in the US either.

Saying that the US needs more in the example model of the smartphone, Cruz believes that having the federal government step in would be a boost for the big corporations and their "armies of lobbyists." Mom and pop operations and startups then carry more of a burden, left without a voice in the matter. He believes that in doing so, it would reinforce the idea that Washington only listens to corporations, putting up barriers of entry in the process.

That could very well be the case, as Cruz points out with the recent Internet tax law that will likely be passed over in the next lame duck session of Congress. While the smaller business certainly will need to do more work to manage the tax responsibility, the "armies of lobbyists" are fighting for what Cruz is trying to avoid. It doesn't add up. He adds that he doesn't "have anything against the big guys" that build a better mousetrap, which is obtuse considering part of his campaign contributions-granted a small portion-come from the same telecommunications that are fielding the largest lobbying teams in years.

"Forgive me if I do not weep for Fortune 50 companies who are complaining that other Fortune 50 companies are really mean to [them]," said Cruz during the speech. "The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers between them. The government shouldn't be deciding 'I like these lobbyists, but not these lobbyists.'"

During the talk Cruz said that it wouldn't be good for the government to step in and regulate prices and terms of services. Neither under the FCC rules that were tossed out, nor under the hybrid rules that were floated to the agency currently under consideration, was any mention made of either of those ideas mentioned. In Obama's plan he specifically stated that "the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act--while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services." Cruz stood his point in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

"In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. 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," said Cruz.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) stated on CNN's State of the Union that he doesn't believe that Cruz has a good base of understanding of the concept. Franken said that Cruz has it "completely wrong and he just don't understand what this issue is." Cruz's opinion article proves just that, as there is a belief that something will come to pass that was never proposed. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal also made a comic in an attempt to educate Cruz on what the net neutrality debate is actually over. Inman uses the Netflix negotiations to prove the point that these large corporations can and will stifle others as a means to an end -- money. Unfortunately, the problem may extend beyond education on the topic.



Though the world of politics is fueled by donations in various forms, Cruz is on the receiving end of donations of various kinds from political action committees (PAC) and individuals since he ran for office who would benefit from his stance on the issue. Those donations could be construed as the same sort of decisions he is accusing the rest of the government of when picking "winners and losers." According to the Center for Responsive Politics since the 2012 election cycle, Cruz received $7,500 from Comcast (one of the lowest that year), $12,000 from Time Warner Cable (largest of the cycle), $17,000 from AT&T, $7,100 from Verizon, $1,000 from Charter Communications, $2,500 from T-Mobile, and $15,000 from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

Time Warner Cable appears to have a negative $1,601 contribution to Cruz in 2014, signaling either a returned or lost donation from another period. By contrast, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)--a staunch supporter of net neutrality--has pulled in only $15,500 in the same two-cycle period, mostly from the PACs for AT&T, T-Mobile, Time Warner Cable and Verizon. T-Mobile -- a company that has call center presence in Oregon -- is his largest donor at $6,000 in 2014, while at least $500 of Verizon's money is from individuals associated with the company. None of these figures include what would be considered "dark money," sources that don't have to disclose spending, which the entire telecommunications industry is known to use.

Obama took more donations from telecom companies during his presidential campaigns, but Cruz is on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet that helps shape bills for future. A majority of members of the communication subcommittees on both the House and Senate are targeted for these types of donations, with only Maria Cantwell (D-WA) having no donations from big telecommunication companies. If Cruz truly wanted to keep government out of the spat between the big corporations, he could follow Cantwell's example -- though that may be a result of her actions. Cantwell's stance on net neutrality is strong, as she introduced the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011 with co-sponsor Franken to strengthen rules that would keep the Internet open.

"The reason a seemingly technical issue such as net neutrality has become such a politicized fight is that the financial stakes are so high," said Cantwell in 2011. "If we let telecom oligarchs control access to the Internet, consumers will lose. The actions that the FCC and Congress take now will set the ground rules for competition on the broadband Internet, impacting innovation, investment, and jobs for years to come."

While Cruz promotes "don't mess with the Internet," the regulation that's being proposed is attempting to keep the Internet as-is-or close to it--in a near neutral state where no one has priority access. Under this equal access, entrepreneurs thrive, consumers get new options and choices, and anyone with a new idea can make a living. While regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1937 or Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be necessary, it's becoming a topic that must be broached.

With the creep of corporations into the realm, the increasing prevalence of peering deals like those between Netflix and Comcast that the FCC is investigating, the near monopolies in certain areas, consumers and innovators face a future where their choices and ideas are limited by the amount of money they can pay. For now the US will need to wait to see how the proposed FCC rules pan out, but the exact future Cruz is trying to avoid with his fear mongering could come to pass if regulation isn't imposed to keep the public from the whims and forceful tactics of Internet service providers.



- Jordan Anderson (@draeno)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Nov 17, 2014 at 06:06 PM. )
     
gorgar07
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Nov 17, 2014, 05:52 PM
 
Cruz is a talking bobble head. Not only is his comparison between phones INACCURATE as both ARE regulated by Title II, he has no clue what he's talking about. Title II does not fix pricing. It fixes speed. Those who can afford to pay the "toll" for the fast lane will get there data faster as opposed to those who can't will be forced to not compete at all because they can't afford the "toll" for the fast lane". Its a way for the big corporations TO COLLECT EVEN MORE MONEY from the consumer forcing the little guy out.
     
robttwo
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Nov 17, 2014, 06:23 PM
 
Because the government is more trustworthy, and more efficient than corporations that rely on consumer satisfaction to be successful.

Yep, just keep putting your mouths to the government nipple. Soon you will have no rights at all.
     
climacs
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Nov 17, 2014, 06:34 PM
 
allowing corporations to efficiently deliver health care is what gave us the nightmare of pre-existing conditions and millions of Americans unable to afford access to basic health care services. Meanwhile, those horrible socialist governments in Europe are able to efficiently deliver health care to all of their citizens at a per-capita cost of roughly half that of the US. Spouting libertarian platitudes that are easily contradicted by reality is not the hallmark of a wise person, robttwo.
     
kavok
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Nov 17, 2014, 08:07 PM
 
climacs - Yeah and that's why the Europeans have so many wonderful problems with austerity because the governments can't support all the entitlements. We don't need to copy Europe. We have enough issues to work through without adding their garbage to it. Things can be worked out without sacrificing freedom. They are not mutually exclusive as the progressives would like to believe.
     
climacs
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Nov 17, 2014, 08:18 PM
 
I looooove hearing expert opinions about European social programs from people whose knowledge of Europe comes from American propagandists peddling political talking points. Speaking as someone who has first-hand experience with both the American and European systems... you do not know what you are talking about. Your argument fell apart the moment you brought up 'austerity'. Austerity was not the result of European social spending; rather, it was forced on the Europeans by banksters and Keynesian-denialist economists as a remedy for the recession. The austerity experiment is widely considered an abject failure by all but the austerity dead-enders; instead, the great austerity experiment proved the Keynesians right (yet again). The US did not administer to itself the bitter medicine of austerity; in fact, Obama's stimulus spending worked and it should have been much larger. As a result, the US economic rebound occurred much sooner. Europe's problems are also related to the unique structure of the Eurozone/ECB/EU.
     
climacs
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Nov 17, 2014, 08:25 PM
 
in fact i just returned from Europe (my third trip this year). I had with me a friend who had only been once before, briefly. We spent a lot of time living with average people rather than doing the tourist thing. She made a rather interesting remark to me about halfway through the trip; she said, "I haven't seen any homeless people." She was right; there are few homeless people there. They also don't allow people to die for lack of medical care because they don't have a job. There are countries in Europe with expansive social safety nets that are experiencing economic difficulties (Greece, Italy and Spain); there are also countries in Europe with expansive social safety nets that are doing just fine (Germany, France, all of the northern European nations). Meanwhile in America, we spend twice per capita on health care compared to those socialist hellholes, we get worse outcomes and at least prior to ACA, we still left millions without access to affordable health care. Oh yeah, and we have homeless people all over the place in no small part due to the fact that we throw the mentally ill out on the street instead of caring for them. But you go right on believing that the American way of doing things is always the best and only way.
     
climacs
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Nov 17, 2014, 08:31 PM
 
but please, let's get back to the original topic: Ted Cruz. He is not an idiot. He is crazy like a fox. He knows that the knee-jerk I-hate-Obama crowd will fall for whatever irrational crap he spews so long as it is spun in such a way that it appeals to the Obama Derangement Syndrome crowd and the free market cultists. He is the worst sort of demagogue and it's a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of the GOP that someone like this can be considered a serious contender for the party's 2016 nomination rather than being laughed off the national stage.
     
growlf
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Nov 17, 2014, 09:45 PM
 
I love you, climacs!
     
Stuke
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Nov 17, 2014, 09:52 PM
 
Climacs, I agree with you; but, we have to get Americans to realize that for the socialist endeavors proven in the EU countries don't come for free and that their paychecks would see tax rates close to 50% (just like in the EU countries where I lived and experienced it). Agreed, the socialist solution can be better in some regards, but it will take many years to get as efficient in some systems (e.g., health care) as they are. Why? Because every American boy or girl can be, no, should be thinking of becoming the President or the next Bill Gates! Isn't that how we raise Capitalist citizens?
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Charles Martin
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Nov 17, 2014, 11:03 PM
 
As someone who spends a lot of time in Canada as well as the US, I find the Canadian health system (which in the US would basically be similar to "expand Medicare to everyone") to be very workable, affordable, and high-quality. Stories about long waits for things are very much blown out of proportion by certain propagandistic news organizations and don't match reality. Canada sailed through the crippling economic recession easily, mostly be doing the opposite of "austerity:" it invested heavily infrastructure (which ran a small deficit, it should be noted, but one from which they've recovered now) and did not skimp or cut government benefits on the whole. And this was from a "conservative" government (the term does not have the same meaning in Canada as in the US, by a wide margin).

Cruz is certainly a demagogue in the classic definition and, at least this week, has clearly demonstrated that his understanding of tech issues is extremely poor -- ignoring every other silly thing he's ever said (and that means ignoring plenty), his grasp of tech alone disqualifies him as any sort of serious candidate for higher office, and makes me wonder who on earth thought he'd be a good choice for Senator. Oh right, Texas.

As for the eternal question of who's better at providing a given service to the nation, government or corporations (essentially most political arguments boil down to this question), the answer is: both and either, depending on the specifics. For things that need to work for ALL Americans, regardless of where they live, the track record suggests the government does a better job (bridges, highways, police, fire, schools, libraries, prisons, etc). Corporations are better in other areas, such as commoditization, expansion and profit. Nothing wrong with that, but (for example) I know from my time in Canada that the disabled and poor get treated far better up north than they do in (for example) my home state of Florida.

When it comes specifically to healthcare, I've yet to meet anyone on the "corporations" side of the argument who could answer this simple question: "why does there need to be a profit-driven middleman between the patient and the healthcare provider?"
Charles Martin
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DiabloConQueso
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Nov 17, 2014, 11:51 PM
 
Hey, you know what? The government regulates my water and electricity service, too, and I haven't seen any technological advancements in those two areas in a long time... Cruz may be on to something here! My H2O has stagnated and stayed H2O for far too long -- bring on the Capitalism and Brawndo!
     
Jordan Anderson
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Nov 18, 2014, 12:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by DiabloConQueso View Post
...bring on the Capitalism and Brawndo!
It's got what plants crave!
     
danviento
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Nov 18, 2014, 09:03 AM
 
"...net neutrality... 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."

If we're going to pull the healthcare and insurance reference out, let's put it in real context. So why is it, you suppose that current healthcare costs are so high that one often needs insurance to cover them? May I remind you of the wage and price controls the fed tried to set back in the '70s?

Recall that when wages were set offering health insurance and other benefits became a way for companies to try and lure new employees to them as opposed to others. Since then, what was normally a straight fee for service has become entangled with a third party payer (instead of paying cash) and people often have NO cognizant relation to the actual costs of services, just copays.

We can thank the feds involvement for that current mess and there are PLENTY of other roads to reform other than the nightmare stack of paper with hidden regulation (which we discover more and more of) that is the ironically-named Affordable Care Act.

Personally, I'd rather keep the blood-sucking meddlers out of what has been a mostly open system.
     
Grendelmon
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Nov 18, 2014, 12:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by danviento View Post
"...net neutrality... 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."

If we're going to pull the healthcare and insurance reference out, let's put it in real context. So why is it, you suppose that current healthcare costs are so high that one often needs insurance to cover them? May I remind you of the wage and price controls the fed tried to set back in the '70s?

Recall that when wages were set offering health insurance and other benefits became a way for companies to try and lure new employees to them as opposed to others. Since then, what was normally a straight fee for service has become entangled with a third party payer (instead of paying cash) and people often have NO cognizant relation to the actual costs of services, just copays.

We can thank the feds involvement for that current mess and there are PLENTY of other roads to reform other than the nightmare stack of paper with hidden regulation (which we discover more and more of) that is the ironically-named Affordable Care Act.

Personally, I'd rather keep the blood-sucking meddlers out of what has been a mostly open system.

Exactly.

Ever since I started my professional career, I've always found it strange that my employer is providing me with health insurance as a perk. Why don't they offer me home owners insurance? Why not auto insurance?

This post-WWII employer incentive is outdated and should be reformed (as in, removed). These health provider pork costs are so out of control and ridiculous that it's no wonder why the ACA has created such a fiasco.
     
climacs
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Nov 18, 2014, 03:03 PM
 
"We can thank the feds involvement for that current mess and there are PLENTY of other roads to reform other than the nightmare stack of paper with hidden regulation (which we discover more and more of) that is the ironically-named Affordable Care Act."

We should have had single-payer, that is, government-run health care. The other workable alternative is to maintain private health insurers as middlemen but they are HIGHLY regulated and their profits are minimal. Instead, private health insurers use that product to get their foot in your door and sell you other insurance products that are far better adapted to private markets like auto insurance. The latter is how it is done in Switzerland. ACA is the result of an imperfect political process where single payer simply was not on the table at all and the Republican party sought to oppose anything Obama proposed on the topic of badly-needed health care reform, even if he was proposing their own market-based alternative. ACA will get better as years go on and I predict that one day we will end up with something much more along the lines of what Switzerland has.
     
   
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