Turns out, Jeb! Bush doesn’t like what the Federal Communications Commission is doing about keeping the Internet open and protecting fair and unfettered access to all users.
As part of a statement rallying against other policies, regulations and taxes he vows to dismantle if he’s elected in 2016, Bush said on Sept. 23 that the FCC’s controversial net neutrality regulations, adopted in February, were in fact counterproductive to a free and fair Internet.
“Rather than enhancing consumer welfare, these rules prohibit one group of companies (ISPs) from charging another group of companies (content companies) the full cost for using their services,” Bush said. In other words, it’s not fair for corporations to avoid earning all the money they can. Poor penny-pinching corporations, struggling to make ends meet.
Bush noted the FCC’s regulations as an example of “Reform Goal #2: Make regulators accountable to Americans rather than special interests,” nothing that regulatory agencies “make far more laws that legislators [but]… conduct their deliberations in relative obscurity, often outside the public’s view and effectively accountable to no one, not even the President.” Maybe he missed the millions of public comments submitted to the FCC’s website when the net neutrality regulations were first posted late last year, or the hearings in which the regulations were discussed, deliberated and voted on, all of which were live-streamed via the FCC’s website and are currently available on the site’s archive.
Caroline Craig over at Infoworld has done a great job of compiling where the current Republican candidates stand on net neutrality. Spoiler: They’re against it.
She notes that Donald Trump has said “Obama’s attack on the Internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target the conservative media.”
Ben Carson has said anyone who supports the FCC regulation wants to “impose another level of secrecy and control in the private lives of citizens [and] is not our friend.”
Carly Fiorina is a vocal opponent of the FCC action, describing it as an example of “crony capitalism” and a way for the FCC to use “nearly unlimited authority to micromanage how, when and where Internet companies innovate.”
For what it’s worth, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agree with the FCC and have been strong supporters of the net neutrality regulations.
Meanwhile, it’s been a busy week in the lawsuit against net neutrality, which continues its march toward oral arguments, scheduled to begin sometime in October.
In a 33-page amicus brief filed on Sept. 21, the Future of Music Coalition, Writers Guild of America, West, and National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture argue that the FCC’s regulations are critical to allow the Internet to continue spurring creativity, increasing the reach of knowledge, information and culture.
“For nearly a decade, thousands of artists and independent labels have gone on record in support of strong net neutrality rules that ensure their ability to compete alongside the biggest companies online,” notes Casey Rae, CEO of the Future of Music Coalition. “Now, this same community is urging the court to uphold the FCC’s Title II framework. Without these light-touch, enforceable rules of the road, creators and fans alike will be left behind in the evolution of our digital networks.”
Musicians in particular have a lot to lose if the ability to gain easy and fast access to any website on any server is obstructed. If, for example, YouTube has to pay a toll to have the same access to a service provider’s bandwidth, users looking for a new favorite song or artist might go elsewhere for their entertainment, causing opportunities to fade away.
“The open Internet is expanding opportunities for writers, musicians and other artists to reach an audience,” adds Ellen Stutzman, WGAW senior research and public policy director. “Without the FCC’s rules and the authority to enforce them under Title II of the Communications Act, Internet service providers will have both incentive and ability to interfere with online content distribution.”
Among the groups’ arguments in the brief: The net neutrality regulations protect “the ability of citizens to express opinions and hear from a diverse range of speakers online without interference from ISPs,” and the low entry barriers provided by the Internet have created “unparalleled opportunities for free expression” that could be replaced with “corporate control of speech” if overturned.
All briefs must be filed by October 13, after which arguments will be scheduled. That’s not likely to be the end of the net neutrality saga, however, as the case may eventually move from the US District Court for the District of Columbia to the Supreme Court.
For our previous net neutrality coverage, start here and work backwards.