Ever since he began his first campaign for president, Obama has touted his strong support for “net neutrality.” But until Monday, he hadn’t articulated what exactly that meant or how he hoped to achieve it. Now, six years into his presidency, Obama is casting aside decades of bipartisan consensus on light-touch Internet regulation to score political points with his base. The president is cynically exploiting public confusion over net neutrality to push heavy-handed Internet regulation under Title II of the Communications Act.
While there is widespread, bipartisan support for the concept of an “Open Internet”, it is not the same as Title II, as we’ve explained at length. A well-coordinated, misinformation campaign on the Left has succeeded in convincing Americans that more government will somehow achieve an “Open Internet.” This presents Republicans with a daunting political challenge. But they also have an excellent opportunity to lead and improve their brand. TF’s Berin Szoka explains in National Journal:
Berin Szoka, the executive director of the libertarian group TechFreedom and a net-neutrality skeptic, admitted the issue is “absolutely a political winner” for Democrats.
“Republicans are playing checkers when Democrats are playing chess,” he said. “Republicans are their own worst enemy on this issue. When they bash net neutrality, they just shoot themselves in the foot with millennials and the tech industry.”
The key, Szoka said, will be for Republicans to take a more nuanced position on net neutrality. They should support legislation giving the FCC “narrow” authority to prevent Internet providers from blocking websites and requiring them to publicly reveal how they manage traffic, he said. Republicans need to show that it’s possible to protect consumers online without imposing utility-style regulation, he argued.
“If early next Congress, Republicans haven’t come out with a legislative fix, you’ll know they’re not serious,” he said.