Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission passed “network neutrality” regulations, which aim to ensure equal access to all legal Internet content. Service providers will not be allowed to block rival services, nor will they be able to divide traffic to certain sites into fast and slow lanes, thus giving priority to preferred web content providers. The new regulations are still opposed by many open internet groups for not going far enough, and came after years of debate and millions of dollars of lobbying.
The announcement of a new federal regulation prompted a characteristic outburst from conservative leaders, who have consistently fear-mongered against net neutrality regulations as an evil progressive scheme to control the Internet. On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused the Obama administration of trying to “nationalize” and “control” the Internet; radio host Rush Limbaugh also said Obama just took over the Internet (at the behest of George Soros, of course) and suggested Hugo Chavez would be jealous:
— McCONNELL: Today the Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve new rules on how American access information on the Internet. There’s a lot of people rightly concerned. … The Obama administration, which has already nationalized health care, the auto industry, insurance companies, banks, and student loans, will move forward with what could be the first step in controlling how Americans use the Internet by establishing federal regulations on its use….The Internet is an invaluable resource. It should be left alone. As Americans become more aware of what’s happening here, I suspect many will be alarmed, as I am, at the government’s intrusion. They’ll wonder, as many already do, if this is a Trojan horse for further meddling by the government.
— LIMBAUGH: Today the FCC approved a proposal by chairman Julius Genachowski to give the FCC power to prevent broadband providers from selectively blocking web traffic. And that’s just a ruse. Net Neutrality is not what this is really all about. This is about the feds wanting to control the Internet just as they control the public airwaves. They want to be able to determine who gets to say what, where, how often — they want to be able to determine what search services are providing what answers to your queries. It’s total government control of the Internet, and the regime has just awarded it to itself.
It’s another gleaming aspect of free speech, free market, private industry Obama has decided to take over as a Christmas present to himself and the Democrat National Committee and to Mr. Soros. He’s even beaten Hugo Chavez to the punch. Chavez is just talking about taking over the Internet in Venezuela; Obama has got it done.
Watch a compilation:
Elsewhere, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) tweeted that “unelected, unaccountable Democrat FCC commissioners are taking over the Internet.” Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement blasting “yet another government takeover.”
Of course, these provisions do nothing of the sort. Network neutrality rules are explicitly designed to prevent anything like Internet censorship or control — they prohibit providers from being able who gets to “determine who gets to say what, where, how often,” in Limbaugh’s words. In fact, as noted, open Internet groups like Free Press believe the new rules do not go far enough because they do not protect the Internet over mobile devices, and contain exemptions for companies like AT&T. Needless to say, there is nothing in the provisions that would allow the government to censor or control Internet access.
These complaints about network neutrality are almost completely divorced from the reality of the new provisions — but they are nothing new. For months, Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been sounding these same notes; for example, on May 6, Beck said network neutrality would “control every aspect of the Internet…. We are losing our country.” These claims are wildly inaccurate, but almost exactly mirror the messaging being pushed by the telecom industry and its front groups. Americans for Prosperity has frequently labeled network neutrality a “government takeover.” ThinkProgress has documented how Beck’s statements about network neutrality in particular are almost identical to the industry’s spin.