One of the interesting things about the net neutrality debate is how resistant it's been to traditional left-right politics — turns out everyone hates their cable company. The millions of people flooding the FCC's servers with comments have been so effective that Republicans have actually changed their broad policy position to prohibit fast lanes after years of saying they were fine. In fact, a Republican bill in Congress right now lays out almost exactly the same net neutrality plan the FCC just voted on. The only difference is that Obama wants to implement those rules under the authority of Title II, while the Republicans would just pass their bill.
That's not stopping Fox News from you know, being Fox News. Its headline today? "FCC approves sweeping Internet regulation plan, Obama accused of meddling."
Sure. It's not really that sweeping, but it is regulation, and Commissioners Pai and O'Rielly certainly accused Obama of meddling. It's a sort-of-fair headline, even if the "meddling" came after intense pressure from the public.
Then there's this lede:
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted sweeping new regulations sought by President Obama for how Americans use and do business on the Internet, in a party-line vote that is sure to be challenged by the broadband industry.
Well, Obama and the 4 million people who crashed the FCC's computers with comments about net neutrality. And I have no idea what "how Americans use and do business on the internet" means; the rules are meant to keep service providers from interfering with that. But still: it sounds like Obama is going to screw with people. It's Fox News. They hate Obama. Got it.
Let me ask you something.
What the hell does Fox News think this even means?
But the rules, more broadly, would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone by classifying it like a public utility, meaning providers like Comcast or Verizon would have to act in the "public interest" when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone.
- Yes, the rules would classify broadband internet service as a telecommunications service, the same classification as telephone service. That's like a camp, I guess. A really unfun camp, with no swimming or crafts. Okay.
- Comcast and Verizon would have to act in the "public interest"? Where the hell did that come from? What does that mean? Who has said this about net neutrality, ever? Does the Fox News CMS have a button labeled "words that sound like socialism" that generates this sort of thing? Can I get that on my Tumblr?
- Why are Comcast and Verizon providing a mobile connection to my home?
- Is Fox News aware that mobile phone voice service is regulated under Title II and it's been fine?
- Seriously, what does this even mean?
Lest you think this was just a mistake, the same piece doubles down later on:
That would dramatically expand regulators' power over the industry by requiring providers to act in the public's interest and enabling the FCC to fine companies found to be employing "unreasonable" business practices.
(I love the "unreasonable" in quotes. "Unreasonable." No internet provider has ever been unreasonable!)
Like I said, net neutrality has traditionally resisted being politicized like this — people love the internet more than they love their political parties, and these are the rules that make sense. But man, that doesn't mean the right-wing media machine isn't going to try. It's going to get weird.