Within a few hours of President Barack Obama's call on Monday for regulators to ensure strict "net neutrality"—rules requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Internet content equally—the Republican establishment's hair caught on fire.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called net neutrality the "Obamacare for the Internet"; House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was "a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship"; and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Lousiana) said Obama's attempt to "impose net neutrality regulations on the Internet" was a "radical effort" with "no justification." To list just a few of the howling reactions.
But according to a poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a pro-net neutrality association of businesses, Republicans and conservatives outside of Washington D.C., seem to think that the idea of net neutrality is actually a pretty good one.
Some 83% of voters who self-identified as "very conservative" were concerned about the possibility of ISPs having the power to “influence content” online. Only 17% reported being unconcerned. Similarly, 83% of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not "monopolize the Internet" or "reduce the inherent equality of the Internet" by charging some content companies for speedier access.
The poll did not ask participants about specific methods of regulation, like whether the Federal Communications Commission ought to reclassify consumer broadband Internet as a utility under "Title II"—as Obama has called for—or whether it should use "Section 706" of the Telecommunications Act, another statute relating to broadband infrastructure.
The poll, explained Andrew Shore, the executive director of IFBA, was designed to "get to the heart" of net neutrality by asking voters whether they believed that the government should prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging Internet content companies for special access to Internet customers.
The poll also asked whether voters were concerned that big ISPs—like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T—could influence the government and elected officials in their favor; 72% of self-identified conservatives said yes.
Last year, Comcast—the nation's biggest ISP by a long shot—spent more on lobbying than any other company in the U.S. except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber. Of the $16.4 million it has spent on lobbying and campaign contributions this year, large chunks have gone to the National Republican Congressional Committee ($104,000); the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($87,975); and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($85,750), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Boehner, who was among the first to slam Obama's call for net neutrality regulations yesterday, has received $107,775 from Comcast—nearly twice as much as any other other member of Congress. Boehner also holds stock in Comcast, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But big Internet content companies which are in favor of net neutrality regulations, like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Ebay, are hardly wallflowers in this debate. So far this year, Google spent $3.9 million in campaign donations and $13.7 million on lobbying.
(The Vox Populi poll surveyed 1,270 active voters on Oct. 26/27, with a margin of error of +/-2.8%.)
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