Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded to Al Franken’s (D-MN) criticism of his grasp of net neutrality… by talking about everything except net neutrality. According to an article on Politicus USA, he talked about Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934, and how the Internet is not, and should never be, subject to Title II because computers, tablets and smartphones are not rotary telephones.
In a video he posted to YouTube, Cruz explains his idea of what net neutrality is, and paints it as something that will freeze innovation, the way the Telecommunications Act of 1934 allegedly froze telephone service. He said:
“The [Internet’s] innovation is happening without having to go to government regulators and say, ‘Mother may I?’ We want a whole lot more of [wonderful smartphones] and a whole lot less of [ridiculous, slow, rotary phones].”
Nowhere in that video does he actually address what doing away with net neutrality will actually do. Since Ted Cruz is against government regulation of any sort, however, it’s not surprising that he thinks Title II, and net neutrality, will strangle companies and innovation, because he believes that the U.S. is a global leader in Internet innovation thanks to a lack of regulation.
He couldn’t be more wrong. The U.S. doesn’t even crack the top 5 when it comes to broadband speeds, and innovation lags behind other countries as well. In 2013, we actually fell behind countries we consider to be “less developed” than we are in many ways. We’re talking Latvia and the Czech Republic. Of course, we’re also still behind more obvious leaders like South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong (which are the top 3).
One part of the problem is our large landmass, which makes it difficult to ensure solid, state-of-the-art coverage. Another is our large population, according to XConomy’s summary of Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report. But, we also pay more for less here. The ISPs have a bad habit of avoiding competing with each other, which drives prices up, because, well, none of that wonderful competition that Cruz and his ilk whine about regulation destroying actually exists. Without amending the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to include local and regional monopolies (or passing another anti-trust law altogether), we can’t force these companies out of collusion and into direct competition.
This is a big part of why people, including President Obama, want the Internet regulated as a public utility. There are some things that government regulation can, in fact, help with, and this is one. Utilities generally don’t have any competition because of the way they’re set up. When they’re privatized, the government doing the privatizing is handing a monopoly over to a for-profit company. Service quality drops and prices go up, because there’s no incentive to do otherwise. When companies have local and regional monopolies, everyone suffers. We have local and regional monopolies over our Internet service, with, at best, two choices.
Carol Crawford, tech policy expert and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Gilded Age, said, according to Time Magazine back in 2013 [emphasis mine]:
“Truly high-speed wired Internet access is as basic to innovation, economic growth, social communication, and the country’s competitiveness as electricity was a century ago, but a limited number of Americans have access to it, many can’t afford it, and the country has handed control of it over to Comcast and a few other companies.“
And there’s the stark truth that people in the pockets of the ISPs (and pretty much every other monopoly we have) won’t see, because it means less money for them. Abolishing net neutrality and letting the ISPs do what they want with tiered service allows them to prioritize whatever content they want, based on who can pay the most. That will drive prices for services like Netflix and Google’s business services even higher. It also allows them to prioritize their own content, and throttle or block any content they feel like.
In short, it takes away the consumers’ few remaining choices, and penalizes independent content providers and small businesses for simply not having the dollars to compete. It will remove more of what little competition does exist, not promote it. Al Franken is still right; Ted Cruz doesn’t get net neutrality. But that’s not unexpected. Ted Cruz is an idiot who can’t see the forest for the trees.
Watch the idiot in all his glory here:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSRD9__8kpQ&w=560&h=315]
Featured image via screengrab