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Net-Neutrality: A Net Gain for Conservatives and Liberals

Net-Neutrality: A Net Gain for Conservatives and Liberals
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By Don Portolese

Once upon a time, before the Internet, politicians could rely on the naiveté of their constituents and the lack of accessibility to information to push through agendas that were not always in the best interests of their constituents. These days I’d like to think that there is just too much information available to allow politicians to sell us a bill of goods so easily. Thanks to the Internet we have access to all kinds of information that can either cloud or clarify our ideas about key issues. Regardless, the Internet is an important source of information that needs to remain open and free for all of us. Some politicians found this out the hard way when conservatives and liberals stood up against the cable lobby in their recent victory to maintain Net-Neutrality. And herein I see the potential for so much more cooperation between these two “warring” factions.

Unfortunately, with all of the information at our fingertips, many of us still don’t research the issues for ourselves. We prefer to have liberal and conservative politicians, news programs and “pundits” digest all of those unruly facts and spit them back up in nice easy to swallow pills (red or blue). Trying to talk beyond the talking points is often an exercise in futility. We don’t fully understand the issues, and allow the partisan pall hanging over Washington to cloud our objectivity. It’s time we let the facts speak before allowing paid-for politicians to dictate which side of the debate we’re on. In doing so, we may just find that conservative and liberals have a lot more in common than we think.

The recent battle over Net-Neutrality is an excellent example of how conservatives and liberals are able to find common ground. Despite cries that the government was trying to take over our Internet, people of all political persuasions came together and lobbied hard to maintain a free and open Internet. Many of these people were tried and true conservatives who were outraged by the bogus claims about Net-Neutrality from those purporting to have their interests at heart.

The grand conservative crusader, Ted Cruz, had this to say about Net-Neutrality:

“Net neutrality” is the biggest regulatory threat to the Internet and will lead to fewer choices, fewer opportunities, and higher prices for consumers.

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”

And here are just a few examples of the lambasting he received from conservative voters:

Ed P: As a Republican who works in the tech industry I can say that this statement shows you either have no idea what you are talking about or you are bought and paid for by the American Cable monopoly. This is an amazingly stupid statement and is disheartening.

Sam A: Senator Cruz, you are wrong on this one. As a conservative voter and IT professional, I can assure you that Net Neutrality is a GOOD THING. Internet providers (who are also content owners) can’t be trusted (as has already been proven) to allow consumers equal access to content from their competitors. This is why the government needs to ensure Net Neutrality as it protects the consumer from the bias of their Internet provider.

John Boehner made the same false claims:

“An open, vibrant ‪#‎Internet is essential to a growing economy, and ‪#‎netneutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship.”

“Federal bureaucrats should NOT be in the business of regulating the Internet. Not now. Not ever.”

And the backlash was just as harsh for the House Speaker:

Sean B: As a Republican, this rhetoric is absolute garbage. #netneutrality isn’t a regulation, it is our current reality and should stay that way. As much as it pains me to say this, you and Senator Ted Cruz need to wake up and realize that making every issue a partisan issue is the problem here. Give back the $107k to Comcast and then talk about this issue objectively.

Lawrence B: You have no clear concept of what is going on. I am a republican and I work/live/use the internet for over 30 years. This is a scam by Comcast and their ilk. I support net neutrality, I don’t support Obama. Our leaders have been bought.

When we see such blatant disregard for the facts we have to wonder whether our politicians are ignorant or just plain diabolical. These responses were from conservatives working in the IT sector who thoroughly understood what was at stake. That is the key to fighting the misinformation campaigns that pass for political discourse. If more people researched and understood what they were fighting for or against, conservatives and liberals would be able to coalesce our common values into a unifying force to get things done rather than a divisive force that keeps us spinning in gridlock.

This approach might even help in the volatile circus surrounding the Affordable Care Act. Whether you’re for or against this law, it is difficult to deny that complicit politicians are using the same tactics to distort this issue. The only difference is that it is the insurance industry rather than the cable monopoly we are up against. Unfortunately, the same political puppets are leading the misinformation campaign, and the same lies are passing for truths. Although many politicians blatantly fudge the math, troll for horror stories and maintain a brazen disregard for the facts, the reality is that this law is doing more good than harm and costing taxpayers far less than expected. Surely it affords us some protections. We should be clamoring for more of these protections, not less. Rather than fighting each other, we should be fighting the insurance lobby and politicians who continue to make false claims about this law, erode its protections or endlessly attempt to repeal it. If voters were only as protective of and knowledgeable about their healthcare as they are their broadband speed, we could find common ground on this important issue as well.

The same could be said for other political contentions: Bank regulation, tax reform, immigration and climate change have all been demonized by politicians whose motives should be held suspect. Like Net-Neutrality, couldn’t these issues be twisted by corporations and the politicians who represent them? We need to stop the subterfuge and get answers to important questions like: What are politicians doing to prevent another financial meltdown? Who are they really referring to when they speak of lowering or raising taxes? Is it truly more cost effective to uproot and deport millions of immigrants rather than allow them to remain here and pay their share in taxes? Are there real environmental and economic consequences of climate change? How much do our politicians receive from lobbyists? By finding the answers to these questions we might just find some appalling disparities between the rhetoric of our political heroes and their voting records.

It is no coincidence that those whose pockets are lined with lobby dollars consistently fall on the wrong side of these debates. They try to twist their position so that it seems they are looking out for the little guy. They rail against important legislation even though it would benefit their constituents. They weave distorted facts and blatant falsehoods into the shiny fabric of the 24-hour news cycle in order to pit people against their own best interests. Whether it comes from conservatives or liberals, this cannot and must not continue. It is our duty to research the facts before aligning ourselves with a party or agenda because it claims to represent our best interests.

Let’s face it; there are issues that conservatives and liberals will never agree on. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t share core values on many others. We stood up together against the cable monopoly and won because we put away our partisanship and educated ourselves about the issue. Understanding is the key to ensuring that our leaders will not manipulate our minds or our votes. Before Comcast, Verizon and their cable compatriots mount another offensive against a free and open Internet, let’s use this amazing tool to better understand the political landscape and determine which politicians are truly on our side. It’s time we checked our facts and worked together to fight what’s truly best for this country rather than against one another. That goes for conservatives, liberals and anyone in between.

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