President Obama must still be reeling from midterms if he wants to take on net neutrality.
Just days after his party got a shellacking at the polls, Obama issued a statement to the FCC asking them to adopt stronger net neutrality rules and protect the open Internet. The media jumped on board, desperate for that Bloody Mary to cure their midterm hangover, by painting Obama as some wrestler getting tagged-in and jumping into the ring.
Understanding net neutrality takes about five minutes of reading on the Internet, and to save you from the hours of CNN coverage with Obama holograms repeating his statement over and over again as a ploy to get his party back on track in 2016, here's what he recommends to the FCC concerning rules for the Internet:
No blocking of legal content.
No throttling of content.
Transparency from server to user.
No paid prioritization.
This isn't a new position for Obama. Part of his platform back in 2008 was to enforce these rules, back before Comcast and other ISPs started dropping $75 million a year to kill net neutrality.
But now midterms are over, and while Obama has no real power over enforcing these rules (the FCC is an independent agency and ultimately has the final say), his words carry weight in this impending battle.
One of his curveballs was calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, effectively allowing the FCC to prevent ISPs from blocking or discriminating content. Those rules already govern phone services, and Obama saying that "it is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information, whether a phone call or a packet of data" clarifies his position.
Well said, Mr. President. But you forgot that, as per the nature of politics, Sen. Mitch McConnell must exercise his new power as the incoming majority leader and do what Republicans do best: dismiss everything Obama says.
"The president's decision today to abandon this successful approach in favor of more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats is a terrible idea," said Sen. McConnell.
But wait! There's more! Tag in your new partner-in-crime, House Speaker John Boehner!
"An open, vibrant Internet is essential to a growing economy, and net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship," said Boehner.
Let's keep this anti-Obama party train rollin'! Your turn, Sen. Ted Cruz!
"Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government," Cruz ironically tweeted.
OK - I have to stop the party there. That's just ridiculous.
Since when did rules for the Internet equate to reforming our broken (and still broken) health care system? We all know you want to fit in and court the Republicans for 2016, Sen. Cruz, but your base is smarter than that.
All of these comments against Obama's statement are based on the idea that we have one of the best Internet infrastructures in the world. The truth is, we lag in nearly all metrics used to measure Internet infrastructures.
We have an 81 percent penetration rate, behind countries like Qatar (88.1 percent) and Bermuda (91.3 percent). We rank 26th in average Internet speed, trailing countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria and Macau.
And here's the icing on the cake: We pay more for terrible Internet. We pay nearly $3.50 per megabit of Internet speed, on average. For reference, Suddenlink offers their 15 megabit per second package (barely considered broadband) for $35 per month on special.
In Moldova, they pay $0.73 per megabit. Most of the former Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus) as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand and China all pay less than we do.
Net neutrality rules are all over the board as far as these countries are concerned, and it is uncertain how those rules affect pricing and building of infrastructure. The argument remains the same: We do not have the best Internet infrastructure, by far, and if the ISPs had it their way (unregulated and free to compete as they see fit) we would pay more for less and essentially lose free and unfettered access to the greatest repository of information known to mankind.
That's what's at stake here, and Obama said it best when he decided to step into this fray:
"The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy - and our society - has ever known."
He's completely right. Whether you like it or not, our society is built on the Internet. Unless you are off the grid entirely, the Internet influences every modern convenience you have. The freedom of information has created infinite possibilities for all of us, and right now companies making a monstrous profit governing our access to that information.
We need this regulation to keep these companies in check because the free market has failed to do so.
Millions have already chimed in to the FCC on what they should do concerning net neutrality. If they don't listen, they better gear up for a fight.
The minute you start throttling a movie lover's Netflix, capping data on small businesses that rely on large file transfers, or fetter a journalist's research on a story, you better be prepared from some pushback.
Mobile users click here to see Obama's video statement