BY ADAM LUCENTE
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Al Franken (D-MN) are not the only ones commenting on “net neutrality” lately. The two senators have been trading barbs across the aisle, making headlines in the process, but other notable names are weighing in as well.
On Twitter, several entrepreneurs have voiced their opinions. Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman tweeted “The People fought for this! Thank you @BarackObama for standing with us in calling for real #NetNeutrality,” along with a link to President Obama’s recent comments on the issue. With less optimism, T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted “Keep the Internet open but don’t let the FCC kill competition with overzealous regulation. #netneutrality.”
New York area politicians have chimed in as well. Unsurprisingly, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sent supportive messages to the president via Twitter.
Of course, many celebrities feel the public needs their opinion as well. Electronic music artist Moby wrote on Twitter “big kudos to @BarackObama” for his position. On the other side of the issue, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted “If you want to know what innovation will be like after net neutrality, ask Aereo what they went through,” referencing the Supreme Court’s ruling against the company. Aereo let subscribers watch T.V. via the Internet, but after the court deemed them to be the same as a cable provider, the company was forced to suspend its operations, and has yet to resume them. Perhaps Cuban sees more intervention of this yolk in the near future if the president gets his way.
The apparent disagreement between Mr. Heiferman and Mr. Legere is the most telling, however; as it demonstrates the division over this issue nationally. According to a report by Politico, President Obama offered his support for “rules that would treat all Internet traffic equally…” The president, on whitehouse.gov, said that “most Internet providers have treated Internet traffic equally” until the present. He elaborated “…an entrepreneur’s fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations.” Painting another picture, he also remarked “…access to a high school student’s blog shouldn’t be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.”
So what does this mean? Advocates of net neutrality argue that Internet providers should not be able to open fast lanes of Internet access for money. They believe that doing so will favor big corporations that can pay for such access, and will slow down access for people using other lanes in the process, e.g. “the fledgling entrepreneurs.” In short, they say they want equal access to the Internet for all users, whether they be individuals or corporations.
Opponents tell a different story. In a quote appearing on Sen. Cruz’s website, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth put it clearly: “Private Internet providers already compete with each other to provide broadband access to millions of Americans, and limiting their ability to sell their products how they see fit will stifle innovation and competition, not encourage it.” On his Twitter account, Sen. Cruz further spelled out this position, tweeting against new Internet taxes and regulations.
In light of the president and the FCC contemplating new rules, opponents believe further regulation will hinder entrepreneurship, and increase taxes while hindering efficiency.
The battle lines are drawn, and are clearly partisan as ever, with Republicans opposing the president’s plan and Democrats supporting it. However, the tweets from Mr. Heiferman and Mr. Legere indicate a divided Internet community. Politico, in their aforementioned report entitled “The new war over net neutrality,” noted this division.
Like everyone else around the country and the world, Rockland residents use the Internet. Given both sides’ insistence that their opponents’ plans will slow the Internet, it behooves the public to weigh the considerations carefully before formulating a position.
SOME OTHER REACTIONS TO NET NEUTRALITY
Michael Weinberg, Vice President, Public Knowledge
What is net neutrality?
“The company that connects you to the Internet doesn’t decide what you do on the Internet.”
Why is it important?
“All the reasons the Internet is important.”
What is the debate over?
“What kind of rules can and should be put in place” (by the FCC). ISPs would prefer to be able to charge tolls to successful internet companies.”
What will happen in Washington regarding the current debate? “The FCC rules are likely to be taken to court.”
Why are more, new rules needed now? “In 2010 the FCC passed rules” (for net neutrality). “In January of 2014 a DC appeals court overturned the rules…The president felt it was time for a decision.”
Russell Diaz, Executive Director of Information Technology, Dominican College
“The ISPs are saying ‘I can invent a better, faster way to provide Internet service. I’m going to have to charge my customers for the investment to create a faster lane.’ It’s a billions of dollars investment.”
What is the issue? “Obama is saying that the FCC should make the laws and regulations of the Internet. The Internet companies are saying ‘If I can’t charge more, I can’t recover my investment.'”
On ISPs charging more for faster connection: “Is it discrimination? Or is it just life?”
“Customers will have the ability to choose to go faster.”
“Should the FCC be responsible for the internet? The FCC has traditionally regulated radio/TV.”