Party Trumps Policy

Net neutrality deserve more attention, and not just because because it will someday affect 99% of Americans.  Net neutrality is also a rare issue that doesn’t break down along the standard Democrat-Republican fault lines. Either side could hypothetically take either position.

Republicans are currently “against” net neutrality, a position that’s consistent with their free-market, pro-business philosophy. They view net neutrality as unnecessary government regulation.  Google and Verizon developed the capability to sell products/services involving the wireless spectrum and therefore they have the right to do that however they want, even if it includes charging different prices to different customers. Their successful business models have effectively given them ownership of the wireless spectrum and the government has no right to tell them how to use it.

Democrats are “pro” net neutrality, a position consistent with their philosophy of protecting the little guy from corporate America. They see the wireless spectrum as a public good. In their minds the it will always belong to the people. A single citizen has just as much right to the spectrum as the CEO of Verizon, and therefore it’s the government’s responsibility to step in and make sure corporations don’t infringe on those rights by charging different amounts to different customers.

Both positions make sense, but in a bizzarro world things could have played out differently. Republicans could have decided to back net neutrality in order to be consistent with their belief in protecting individual freedoms (in fact, liberals are already delighting in mocking the tea party’s anti-net neutrality stance). Similarly, Democrats could have opposed net neutrality under the rationale that somebody needs to stop bandwith-hogging consumers from running amok of the free market.

Because neither major political philosophy is 100% clear on net neutrality, political positions on it were driven by party affiliation.  The battle lines have now been drawn, sides have been chosen, and for the next 70 years Republicans and Democrats will duke it out to defend their chosen positions.

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