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Ted Cruz won't back down on net neutrality argument

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks about net neutrality at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 14, 2014.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks about net neutrality at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 14, 2014.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has doubled down on his stance against net neutrality.

On Monday night, the likely 2016 contender's office released a YouTube video and six-second Vine clip on "How Net Neutrality Hurts the Internet," blasting out his message on social media. The video is aimed at Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who last weekend said Cruz "doesn't understand what [net neutrality] is."

“What happens when government starts regulating something as a public utility?” Cruz asked in the video. “It calcifies everything, it freezes it in place.”

He then brings out a rotary telephone—perhaps a reference to the 1960s rotary phones provided to phone users by AT&T, as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission—and declared “this is regulated.” He then lifts up his iPhone. “This is not.”

The back-and-forth began when Franken responded to an op-ed written by Cruz in The Washington Post arguing that net neutrality is “Obamacare for Internet." Franken said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Cruz was "completely wrong , and he just doesn’t understand what the issue is."

Indeed, Obamacare set significant regulations on what kinds of health insurance consumers could buy, set penalties for Americans who failed to acquire coverage, and established the marketplaces that sell health plans. Net neutrality, by contrast, is the principle that Internet service providers treat all content equally, as they have in the past, so that a student’s blog loads as quickly as a major shopping site, and neither can be charged a pay-to-play fee.

"We have had net neutrality the entire history of the Internet. So when he says this is the ObamaCare, ObamaCare was a government program that fixed something, that changed things," Franken, a longtime net neutrality supporter, argued on CNN last Sunday. "This is about reclassifying something so it stays the same. This would keep things exactly the same that they've been. And the pricing happens by the value of something."

Related: Federal court deals major blow to ‘net neutrality’  

Cruz may be firing at Franken's specific statements, but the tea party leader's main target is the president. Obama spent two campaigns promising to fight for net neutrality, but many of the issue's supporters felt betrayed when he set up a former lobbyist to head the FCC. Then last week, on the heels of a brutal midterm for Democrats, Obama came out strongly in support of net neutrality, earning accolades from supporters and predictably, outrage from conservatives.

Like his Obamacare argument, Cruz's point about rotary phones also misses the mark. While a legal challenged that ended that specific FCC regulation did result in the first cordless phone and other innovations, it wasn't until the Justice Department filed an anti-trust suit against AT&T's monopoly in the 1980s that the industry was allowed more free innovation.

“We want a whole lot more of this and a whole lot less of that,” Cruz says in the video, celebrating his iPhone. 

Cruz, however, doesn't note that while mobile service is not regulated as a utility, it is indeed regulated by the government to ensure things like safe radiofrequency levels -- which potentially prevent cancer -- and allow consumers to keep their number if they changes providers.