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A different day a different corporate shill: the biggest enemy of the free market is crony capitalism

Editorial By: BNC Candidate Marc Whitmire, Republican TN-02

Either I’m getting old enough that I should finally accept déjà vu as a fact of life; or else I just fought the net neutrality fight a bit under four years ago, and celebrated victory about two and a half years ago. It looks like it’s the latter. Well, here we go again.

Different day, different corporate shill in the FCC Chairman position. In 2014 it was big cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler, who wanted to let the free and open internet be something for the history books. Today it is Ajit Pai, a former corporate lawyer for Verizon who is digging net neutrality’s grave. And he apparently intends to kick the lifeless corpse into the freshly uncovered soil of the six-foot hole he dug with his own two mitts. Who says the elites don’t get their hands dirty?

My main issue here is this: the biggest enemy of the free market is crony capitalism, something that both above examples of corruption involving the FCC Chairman bear a striking resemblance to. Probably because they are perfect scenarios for blatant crony capitalism at its worst. We’ve got people in positions of power that aim not to do their jobs and punish those who try to cheat the system, but instead to reward them by rigging the rules in their favor. It’s like the security guard at a bank welcoming a robber into the vault, and then helping them carry the bags out to the getaway car.

The robbers, in this case, are the Internet Service Providers, (ISP’s), like Verizon and Comcast, who are bolting with the loot from the bank (“bank” being the citizens of this great nation), and the ones in power either do nothing at all, or actively try to revoke the Title II “Common Carrier” Classification that was hard won in 2015. Although this time around, Congress is less involved, which may be a good thing considering in 2014-15 they were trying to dismantle protections. This effort was even led by a Congresswoman from my home state of Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, who collected approximately $262,000 from the telecom industry, by that point in time. Can we all say,”conflict of interest?”

This is what crony capitalism looks like. Now what effect does it have on the free market, you ask? One result of the death of the free and open internet is that competition is shredded to bits. Is Comcast unhappy that they’ve lost customers to Netflix? No problem! Comcast could just slow down or block Netflix so that their users will be unhappy with the service, making them more likely to switch back to cable or to another online video service that streams better because it has unfettered access to high-speed internet, which might just happen to be because it is owned by Comcast. So you see, if we lose the fight on Net Neutrality, these organizations are already poised to place their own streaming services in an internet “Fast Lane” that they control. What a coincidence!

In the end, Netflix will likely just have to pay a toll to the “gatekeepers” of the net. We’ll still have access, but you can be certain the cost will be passed on to us in one form or another. It’s not only the big fish and existing companies like Netflix who could feel the burn. What about all those small internet startups that drive the digital economy, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in our country? What happens when they can’t afford to compete and never get off the ground because of paid prioritization? Well, that kills innovation.

Lastly, the public will face tiered data plans, reminiscent of the plans consumers get through mobile carriers where you buy “X” amount of gigabits of data by the month, and if you go over, hello fees! Even worse, ISP’s could package websites, similarly to how cable companies package their channels. Remember having to pay extra to get the “sports package” to watch your favorite teams play on the weekends? Imagine that with the web. Consumers might have access to eBay, but not have the right “internet package” to access Amazon. So that kills choice in the markets.

Well, there you have it. When net neutrality dies, it takes the competition, innovation, and choice right along with it. And if I recall correctly (I do), those are major factors in maintaining a healthy, free market economy in a capitalist society. So to all my fellow Republican representatives that decry the need for adequate competition, and argue for free market principles, where are you now when crony capitalism rears its ugly head? Where are you now when we need you? Have you forgotten about us? We’ve called your offices. We’ve left our messages. Yet we get nothing back. It turns out that it’s not the numbers of voters that matter any longer to our career politicians, it’s the number of dollars that grabs the attention of the interlocutors of the halls of Congress.

Well, it’s ok if you’ve forgotten about us. Because we haven’t forgotten about you. And we’re coming for you. Whether you retire, resign, or just get voted out makes no difference to us. Either way, in 2018 and beyond, we are replacing you. We will have net neutrality. We WILL have a Brand New Congress.

By letting Net Neutrality slip away, we would cause catastrophic damage to our country’s economy

Editorial By: BNC Candidate Sarah Smith, Democrat WA-09

“So, what would removing Net Neutrality really do anyway?”

This is the most common question I get asked when I stand on my soapbox and shout about the importance of Net Neutrality. If we stop having a neutral net and let companies bundle websites, we will see the first step in the downfall of our economy and our individual freedoms to communicate with one another. By letting big corporations, billionaires, and lobbyists like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai bully their way into our Constitutional freedoms, we risk losing so much more than access to Facebook and Twitter.

We lose the forum in which free speech is driven in the modern era. We lose the ability to fact check our politicians. We lose the ability to decide for ourselves what we read and where we get our information. We lose the vehicle for new businesses to see success. We lose the ability to debate freely, to read freely, to discuss freely, and to create freely.

I grew up in an era where the internet was becoming mainstream. I watched how it changed the way we find and obtain information, how we communicate with each other, and how we start new businesses. I and so many other millions of young people watched as the internet shaped the Digital Age. But, this is fragile and can all change in an instant.

For instance, if a new company wants to start working on an affordable, low-cost fiber optic option, they have to get their startup website included in a bundle from an internet company. Imagine how difficult it would be for a small, innovative, determined startup to get their website included in a bundle with a competing internet giant. Simply put, it’s not even on the table.

If you want to start looking for a new job and you try to pull up Monster.com or LinkedIn, unless you pay an extra $5 a month on top of your current package, you can’t look for that new job. If you want to double check a questionable article your Uncle Chad texted you? You’re going to need to shell out another $15 a month for access to ProPublica because it’s part of a package you don’t have. Sure, you don’t want or need sites like PicturesOfSpiders.com or DefinitelyNotFakeNews.org or SpaceJam.com, but if you want ProPublica for news, you’ve got to shell out the cash to Verizon so they unlock it for you. That part is important: rather than being able to just punch in a URL and go, Verizon will have to unlock it for you.

Without a neutral internet, companies like Comcast can decide to let you use Netflix, sure, but they can throttle your internet speeds down to 10 bits to do it. That means pixelated images, no HD streaming, and buffer times in excess of twenty minutes. However, if you want to buy Comcast’s XFINITY service for $49.99 a month, you can stream at 2 gigabytes a second using all the titles they let you access! Pay just $19.99 more for HD access and another $7.99 for zero buffer times!

I am running for Congress in Washington’s 9th District. In Seattle, we’re known for a few things, but most of all we’re known for our technology and development. We’re known for our tech innovation, our web programming, and our computer science. Without access to a neutral net, none of that would be possible. When companies remove the possibility for new industry to develop by throttling the most important resources for new industry to grow, they hamstring the economy. They stop new business development, new industry creation, and new opportunities for economic growth. By letting Net Neutrality slip away, we would cause catastrophic damage to our country’s economy.

Ajit Pai will try to sell you cherry-picked stats that aren’t in context. He’ll try to sell you $25 words that have 10 cent meanings and use buzzwords like “freedom” and “choice”. But the reality is the only “freedom” and “choice” without Net Neutrality is the “freedom” of corporations like Verizon to “choose” how much they throttle the newest season of Daredevil until you cave and buy their astronomically more expensive streaming package.

This is a chance for every person – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green, Libertarian, whatever you may be – to come together and fight for what we all agree on and believe in: We should be allowed to binge-watch an entire season of Orange is the New Black whenever we want at the speeds we purchase for however long we want.

Join a protest. Join a pro-Net Neutrality phone bank. Join an outraged letter writing group. Whatever you can, need, and want to do, get it done. We can save the internet together.