There’s been a lot of talk since the election on where the first big showdown is going to occur between President Obama and Congress over the use of “executive actions.” Surprisingly, it may turn out that the first battleground won’t be immigration or the environment, but the issue of net neutrality.

So, what is net neutrality? Put simply, it’s the principle that all data going across the Internet should be treated equally. Imagine the Internet in the term once commonly used to describe it: as an “information superhighway.”

You’d want everyone on a highway to have equal access to it, right? But imagine if some people got special access to higher speed lanes and on ramps if they paid more. Imagine if, say, J.B. Hunt Transportation could pay to use faster lanes and quicker access ramps than Bob’s Friendly Trucking.

Pretty soon, poor Bob’s going to be out of business, and J.B. Hunt has one less competitor. That’s not good for capitalism. Further, J.B. Hunt’s going to pass that premium down to its users, who’ll have fewer and fewer options to go elsewhere. That’s not good for consumers.

To apply this to the Internet, say you and a few of your entrepreneurial friends have an idea for a new search engine, one that runs faster and provides better sorting of search results than Google or Yahoo. But when you try to get it up and running, you find out that you can’t complete because Google has flexed its financial muscle and paid Comcast and Time Warner off so that they’ll always have better access and run faster than you.

After the customary months of internal debate and re-debate on the subject, President Obama stepped forth and stated: “I believe 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.”

What that means in plain English is that he wants the FCC to treat Internet service providers (ISPs) as utilities or “common carriers,” meaning that they’d have more power to make them treat all their customers equally.

Some right-wing Washington types immediately leaped forward to defend the only real principle the wingnuts have left, to wit: “If’n Obama’s fer it, we’s agin it.” Orange John Boehner, alleged speaker of the House, claimed the president’s proposal would “destroy innovation and entrepreneurship” (as we’ve seen, precisely the opposite is true).

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put down his copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” long enough to take to Twitter and Facebook to call the proposed rule change “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Cruz indicated his utter failure to understand the Affordable Care Act, net neutrality, and the English language by going on to claim that the proposed redefinition “puts 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 for consumers.”

This, despite the clear language about “forbearing from rate regulation.” On second thought, perhaps this is like Obamacare, if by that you mean “something right-wingers justify opposition to by lying through their teeth about it.”

It should surprise no one that Sen. Cruz is the recipient of over $47,000 in campaign contributions from the biggest Internet service providers, such as Comcast, TWC, et. al. What may have surprised the senator, however, is the number of self-described conservatives who joined their more liberal brothers in geekdom to tell him he’s totally full of it on this subject.

“As a Republican who also works in IT,” one wrote, “you have no clue what you are talking about.” Another wrote, “As a tech and fiscal conservative in Texas who generally votes Republican, I am incredibly disappointed by your completely inaccurate statement.”

That shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, however, because this is by no means a strictly liberal issue. According to a recent story on, a survey by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a group led by former GOP Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi, found that “83 percent of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not ‘monopolize the Internet’ or ‘reduce the inherent equality of the Internet’ by charging some content companies for speedier access.”

Net neutrality is good for the Internet, and since so much of our business these days gets done there, it’s good for the country. This is an issue with support all along the political spectrum, even if it’s opposed by Comcast, TWC, and other corporate behemoths, and by their bought and paid-for shills in Congress.

Let’s not let knee-jerk opposition to all things Obama, as well as congressional harlotry, be the end of an open and level playing field for all online.

(16) comments

gail hanley

Francis, you aren't necessarily a pessimist if you observe disturbing trends. The trend towards gangs and drugs is a very real threat to our democracy. We have enough problems here in the US that I would be very happy to have an administration that concentrates on the American Dream for American born. That doesn't mean I ignore the fact that there is a younger generation that will not be able to carry the mantel of democracy. A generation more concerned with legalizing pot. It disappoints me. And I can only imagine how disappointing it is to generations before us who fought and died to insure our rights.

gail hanley

Francis, I can't debate you on skilled tradesmen because I never had tradesmen. My employees were all college educated and young. They did expect something for nothing. They had an attitude of entitlement because their parents paid for their college and they never had to work for it. I have had no experience like you so I am taking your word you ran into problems. I have hired Hispanics as subcontractors, but no on a large scale. They were all better than the American workers. I have found in the past decade drugs are a big problem. Not every small business has the profit margin that allows to drug test employees. And if all you do is a urine test people will use someone else's urine. As far as legal status it's as you say often futile. Surely, we can agree that Americans are spoiled and lazier than our ancestors were? You might enjoy the new documentary Citizenship USA from 50 different states. An amazing testament to who comes here and why. Not all immigrants are created equal. After seeing that piece I almost feel guilty being critical of our country.

Mark Hayes

I am not against legal immigration, I am against our government bending the rules for a certain demographic, Mexico is getting quite wealthy from the use of their country, which is used as a passage here. San Salvador, Columbia and Honduras all have overwhelming numbers of gangs, many actually were started here in the U.S. and taken back to those countries by deported gang members, Durham, Sanford, Raleigh,Charlotte, Greensboro and many more have these gangs established right in our own backyard, consisting mostly from illegals. I did have several that wore long shirts to work, not for sun protection but to hide their gang affiliation tattoos, to ignore that fact puts all of our own at a danger we did not have to cope with growing up. A well concealed secret that will eventually be our problem, if it is not already. I'm a pessimist, rather be safe than sorry. Have a good evening.

gail hanley

Francis, truthfully I think the blame lies with the breed of the corporations. However, I have not met in my businesses that many American born workers to be hard workers. Americans are spoiled and lazy. That truth hurts equally.

Mark Hayes

If you think that using the excuse American workers are not hard workers and should be replaced with illegals then that is your opinion, myself I disagree. Sometimes it is the employers who tolerate spoiled and lazy people, having ran work for decades I had no problem finding good hard working Americans to fill the job requirements, I never had a problem culling out the not so desirable, I also never agreed to those who failed to perform as they claimed on their resume to receive unemployment, I made them happy to quit. I did hire what was thought to be legal Hispanics, they did have all the required documentation, but after inquires by IRS found that they abruptly disappeared , seems the name I had referred them to was not actually their name at all, when they left so did some minor tools and equipment, so I still believe Americans are the smartest and brightest of all workers, sorry you don't feel the same.

Mark Hayes

Having watch the interviews of several workers and family members of the injured workers at the much publicized walk bridge collapse, one would have to wonder of their status here, none so far have spoke any English, several have had photos of the family which indicates they have several children, most very young, these workers due not make great amounts of money so they more than likely are getting some assistance for their families, or at least the children. Point being we have allowed these construction companies to use the loopholes in our system to employ what would probably prove to be a majority of illegals, taking jobs that there are many Americans well equipped to do, they just want what the fair wage to do them is. This is just another example of just where these supposed " farm workers" are showing up, and it ain't on the farm like they are supposed to be. These workers more than likely are mostly illegals who would still be alive and well had they not been hired by these construction companies, instead they will end up through our legal system victims, victims who will be compensated for their illegal entry into this country, no sympathy here, they are taking jobs from Americans and should never been on a site that they could not understand our countries language. Truth hurts, some of you had better get over it.

gail hanley

Thanks Ocean Gypsy. That was enlightening as well. I've come to believe all taxes go one way from here to eternity. There aren't any places left in America to avoid them.

Tom Hill

Farmboy has it right. Cruz has it right too. This is nothing but a backdoor method for this administration to start taxing the internet in exchange for their "services" of keeping the internet "safe". Here are two other commentaries for anyone interested in studying both sides of the issue.

gail hanley

Here's the thing guys. It would cost more to round up illegals and deport them than to give them temporary amnesty coming up for review so they will be unable to vote. My guess is republicans will pick Jeb Bush. Watch him be MORE lenient on immigrants. IF they pick Jeb Independents like myself will NOT vote for him. This lets a Independent candidate Rand Paul an opportunity to give weight to a third party which is what America needs. Republicans have a problem. They can't even back their own candidate. Democrats are spineless cowards. We NEED a third party. However, every time an Independent does run that candidate doesn't get enough traction and one party wins by default. Perhaps it's time to reevaluate the electoral college!

Roland Kidd

Anyone granted amnesty should never be allowed to vote unless and until they come here the right way. Leave the internet alone. If Dusty and Obama are for net neutrality I am sure I am against it.

Mark Hayes

Amnesty for illegals, more like a criminal getting a Presidential pardon.[sad]

gail hanley

From the right, I think the Republicans will HAVE to make concessions on immigration to have the slightest shot at winning in 2016. Obama is flexing his heavily padded executive muscle. There are more important issues than Internet access and charges at the moment but down the road having access to information will prove to be the new frontier of progress. I don't think the government is good at monitoring it necessarily, but I do believe terrorism, capitalism and the Internet are inexplicably intertwined.

Richard Wright

What ever happened to you get what you pay for Rhoades and why is this wrong? This is a stupid idea, more of the liberal way where we can do things better in the government.
Of course, anything to change the subject from amnesty for illegals or lying to the taxpayer (Obamacare). Or maybe the new war we are in without Congressional approval. Yep, let's try to fix something that is not broke so the Feds can break it.

Mark Hayes

But it is a distraction, and after all has that not been the tactic used by the Obama administration his entire terms, just wait for the fallout from the sign up or those that re-up for his ACA.

Roger Glass

If the internet becomes a utility, I would ask you all look at any of your current utility bills. What do you see right under the charges for the actual service? Fees, taxes, concessions...this bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is no more than an additional way for the government to collect fees and taxes.

With all the issues the government has in front of it, this IS NOT A PRIORITY!

gail hanley

Finally Dusty, a fine topic. Where have you been? Here's the kicker, most Americans do not understand legaleze. No more than they understand the Internet amounts on its base level to a positive and negative charge cloaked in zeros and ones. It's pretty much unfathomable. It took me a long time and I was a system's analyst. Americans like every other important topic or issue of our time wait for their partisan talking head to tell them what to think. Information IS power. More powerful than weapons. With knowledge comes the mandate to understand how to use it. I am always amused to see in the most remote and primitive cultures on the planet you can observe news footage of folks with cell phones and no clean water. I will be interested to see how this Congressional drama plays out as well.

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