GOP indifference towards net neutrality turns to fierce hostility

Protesters hold a rally to support "net neutrality" on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, D.C.
Protesters hold a rally to support "net neutrality" on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, D.C.
It'd be an exaggeration to say Republicans actually liked net neutrality before, but it's fair to say the GOP was generally indifferent towards the policy.
 
But now that President Obama has stepped up on net neutrality in a big way, Republicans have decided they absolutely hate the idea.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted President Obama's call for stricter regulation to enforce open Internet rules on Monday.  Boehner said House Republicans would continue their push to "stop misguided schemes to regulate the Internet." "It's disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration continues to disregard the people's will and push for more mandates on our economy," Boehner said in a statement.

 
But if the Ohio Republican actually believes there's broad public opposition to protecting Americans' equal access to online content, regardless of the business deals struck by service providers, Boehner's even more lost than I'd feared.
 
Regardless, the partisan lines are suddenly drawn. Congress' GOP leadership now firmly opposes net neutrality. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) condemned the idea, and soon after, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wants everyone to know he hates it, too. Fox News soon followed.
 
Raise your hand if you sincerely believe these folks actually understand the policy.
 
Let's give them a hand, reviewing the general thrust of the idea.
 
Imagine an online landscape in which your service provider had a package of preferred websites -- customers could access those sites quickly and easily, and they would function as they're supposed to. But the ISP also had websites with unfavorable status -- when customers tried to access sites the service provider doesn't like for whatever reason, maybe the sites would load slowly. Maybe consumers would have to pay more to access them. Maybe both. In some cases, it's possible the sites might be blocked altogether because of a business disagreement.
 
For consumer advocates, this is a major problem. Service providers shouldn't be in a position, the argument goes, to make website access easier or harder based on the ISP's business decisions.
 
And that's where net neutrality comes in -- the point is to create a level playing field, prohibiting service providers from playing favorites.
 
Yes, it's government regulation, but it's regulation to protect consumers and encourage online innovation. Trade groups representing tech giants like Netflix and Facebook support net neutrality for a reason -- and it's not because they reflexively love federal regulations.
 
The Republican argument is that if service providers can start making it easier or harder for consumers to access websites based on the company's business deals, it means entrepreneurs can "create economic growth." You may struggle to access free online content you currently enjoy, and you may find that infuriating, but for the GOP, you're supposed to take comfort in the fact that you're "facilitating economic empowerment."
 
By Republican reasoning, every regulation of private enterprise must necessarily be rejected regardless of the economic benefits or consumer demand.
 
Oh wait, that's exactly what contemporary conservatives actually believe.