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Cruz And Cornyn Are Co-Sponsoring A Bill That Would Permanently Gut Net Neutrality

Texas is the only state to have two Senators sign onto the controversial bill.

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Sen. Ted Cruz delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Alex Wong

The Federal Communications Commission voted last week to approve a proposal to begin dismantling net neutrality, the latest step in a series of moves by conservatives targeting federal regulations that protect consumers from Internet service providers (ISPs). One of those moves came earlier this month, when Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn co-sponsored a bill called the Restoring Internet Freedom Act. The bill, authored by Utah Republican Mike Lee, would pretty much permanently prohibit the FCC from reimplementing regulations aimed at preventing ISPs from blocking, throttling, or favoring websites and apps in exchange for money. Texas is the only state to have both Senators sponsoring the proposed legislation.

Repealing net neutrality has long been a goal for Cruz, and he’s arguably pushed harder for it than anyone else in Congress. Back in 2014, at the height of the net neutrality battle, Cruz controversially called the regulations “Obamacare for the Internet,” and in a 2014 editorial in the Washington Post Cruz called net neutrality “one of the biggest regulatory threats to the Internet.” But Cruz and other proponents of Internet deregulation in Congress found little success throughout Barack Obama’s presidency. The Restoring Internet Freedom Act mirrors two similar bills put forward in the Senate in 2015 and 2016. Both bills went nowhere. Last fall, Cruz spearheaded a last-hour push to try to stop a decision by the federal government to transfer oversight of a non-profit that controls Internet domain names to private global players. That effort fell short, too.

Perhaps emboldened by a White House suddenly friendly to deregulation, Cruz and his Republican colleagues were able to score a big win in March, when Congress passed a resolution to nix Obama-era regulations that required ISPs to get your permission before they track and sell your data to third parties, a which Cruz and Cornyn co-sponsored. Constituents directed a “flood of outrage” toward Cruz, Cornyn, and other GOP members who voted to pass the resolution, according to the Hill, in part over concerns that ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast had bought unfairly large influence. The ISP giants have pumped massive amounts of money into legislation like this, targeting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Cruz and Cornyn seem to be among the politicians who have benefited most from generous ISP benefactors, according to Vocativ, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks the impact of money and lobbying on elections and public policy. Cornyn received nearly $160,000 in political contributions from ISPs since 2012, more money than any other senator who supported the resolution. Cruz, meanwhile, took in more than $115,000 from ISPs during that same span.

The risk of potential backlash clearly hasn’t deterred Cruz from continuing his crusade against net neutrality. The prospect of repealing net neutrality protections is generally very unpopular. More than a million people have commented on the FCC’s new proposal, and according to one researcher’s analysis, 96 percent of those commenters are in favor of keeping the regulations in place (you can read all of the comments on a webpage set up by the FCC). Earlier this month 171 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, signed a letter urging the FCC to preserve net neutrality. Critics also say that repealing the rules would be particularly harmful among minority and low-income communities, where strong Internet access is a key gateway to healthcare resources that would otherwise be unavailable or hard to find. And Tom Wheeler, who served as FCC chairman under Obama, co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post last month warning that if net neutrality regulations disappear, then “deep-pocketed corporations will upend how we get our news, watch our favorite shows, use social media or run our businesses.”

The argument from this camp, it seems, is that the FCC proposal and the Restoring Internet Freedom Act would actually make the Internet a lot less free.

Cruz’s press office did not respond to our emailed questions asking for a response to those criticisms and for what he’s heard from Texans on this issue. But Cruz did release a statement when the Restoring Internet Freedom Act was introduced earlier this month, according to Vice News: “I am proud to work with my friend Mike Lee on the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, a bill that rolls back former President Obama’s power grab, protects open internet principles, and recognizes the transformative effect that the internet has had on our lives, generating billions of dollars of new economic activity and millions of jobs, largely free of government’s heavy hand.”

He also co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Lee and Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, countering former FCC commissioner Wheeler’s earlier op-ed. “We reject the idea that the federal government should control the Internet,” the trio wrote in the Post. “We want more competition, not less. More investment, not less. More innovation, not less. We support an open Internet. But we reject the notion that heavy-handed regulations are the way to accomplish this goal.”

A spokesperson for Cornyn responded to our emailed questions by directing us to remarks Cornyn made on the floor earlier this year. “They unnecessarily target internet service providers and ultimately make our internet ecosystem less efficient by adding more red tape,” Cornyn said in March. “The bottom line is the FCC privacy rules are bad regulations that need to be repealed.”

Both Cornyn and Cruz seem closer than ever to reaching that objective.

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  • anonyfool

    The only surprising thing is how cheap Cornyn and Cruz’s votes are, for only about 100,000 the cable companies got their vote and sponsorship and continued campaigning on a hugely unpopular issue among consumers.

    • Jed

      I agree. Pick any topic, and the representatives of Texas have sold us out for a surprisingly small amount of money.

      • Cornyn said in March. “The bottom line is the FCC privacy rules are bad regulations that need to be repealed.”

  • Why should the net be neutral? Control of speech, no matter how offensive is infringement of freedom.

    • SpiritofPearl

      Because the GOP will cause you to pay more money for freedom you already have . . .

    • Jed

      internet bandwidth speech

      ending net neutrality means that corporations control your speech.

      is that better than when the government does it?

    • Ross Willard

      Net neutrality IS freedom of speech. The ‘freedom’ that Cruz and his ilk are trying to support is the ‘freedom’ for the people who run the lines that the internet flows through, to control what is going through their lines. Basically, the ISPs get to give better service to different people based on… whatever. If the ISP belongs to the same people who own a music streaming website, they could choose to give users who use their website great service, but slow down anything coming from their competition. If they decide that they like one politician, then news channels that support that politician might come in fast and clear, while news channels that support their opponent are spotty.

      The ‘freedom’ that they are trying to support is the ‘freedom’ to control speech.

    • abapper

      Guillermo.. see this is the problem.. these Republicans try to mask what they’re doing by telling you it’s making the internet “free” – but what’s really happening is that they are removing the protections that you and I share – protections from ISPs that will favor certain data over other data.

      They really think republican voters are stupid.

      ISPs argue that they should be compensated.. but they already are! You and i pay monthly fees to access content. The content providers (Netflix/Hulu) pay monthly (huge sums) fees to make their content reachable.

      The ISPs want to triple-dip and charge more for data prioritization – this means that if Comcast wants to rollout their own video service, they can stream their content as normal, yet slow down Netflix/Hulu unless they pay more. When they do, who do you think those extra costs will be passed down to?

      That’s inherently anti-competitive. If you own the pipes, you can’t favor one service over another.. you’re already getting paid by everyone involved.

  • WUSRPH

    I had hoped that after Ted’s performance in last year’s elections that Cornyn would have stopped trying to prove he is as far out there as Cruz….but apparently not.

  • José

    It’s a pity that most folks don’t appreciate whose “freedom” is being protected in this bill.

    • SpiritofPearl

      “Freedom” to pay more money . . .

    • David Schultz

      They want to get the FCC out of the regulation business. Conservatives see FCC regulation of network television as a failure. They don’t understand that basic common carrier laws that apply to everything from freight to phone service do not currently apply to broadband.

  • Kimberly Brock

    Has anyone checked to see what PACs are lining these guys pockets? Cause clearly they aren’t working for the people.

    • Emiliejmosley

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours & have longer with friends and family! !sm145c:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. Follow this link for more information
      !sm145c:
      ➽➽
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    • Valleri Lacore

      They are only working for the people,….Conservative minded people.

  • Lisa Max
  • Rickey Benson

    One of these days, before my time on earth is done, Texas Monthly is going to write up an article that is critical of a left wing Democrat or maybe the Democrat Party itself. This would almost be an occasion for the second coming since Texas Monthly serves up only those articles that are critical of conservatives and showing love and understanding only to the left wing of the Democrat Party. Wait, that would be somewhat redundant. There are no more conservative Democrats in the Democrat Party. This party is now being run into the ground by socialists and communists. They need to consider changing the name from the Democrat Party to the National Socialist Party. Wait, on second thought, they may need to come up with a different name because I think that name has already been taken.

    • TacoRub

      Ok…but how about the National Fascist Party for you?

      • Rickey Benson

        Taco, you appear to be a legend in your own mind.

    • Jed

      What a stupid comment.

      They only write about republicans because that’s all you elect.

      And republicans are far easier to criticize.

    • José

      Many of us look forward to that day too, when the Dems run the show and catch heck for making difficult but responsible decisions while the Republicans sit around and spout off cheap talk about how good a job they would do if only they had the chance. Because right now they have the opportunity to show their stuff and boy howdy they’re doing just that and it sure ain’t purty.

      • Rickey Benson

        Jose, do want to know what a country looks like under Democrat Party rule? Look south to Venezuela. This is currently a Democrat Socialist utopia. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton would be proud. Common misery is shared by all and everyone living there is so very happy about it. What is the body count up to now; 70 or 80? Suggest you go down there and look around and see what communism and socialism buys for its citizens. Be sure and take a couple of Big Macs with you when you go. Don’t expect to find much food, medical supplies, etc. Happy Democrat Party utopia to you Jose.

        • Jed

          i almost replied to this.

        • BCinBCS

          Rickey, your reply demonstrates your ignorance (that’s why Jed chose not to reply). If you knew anything about governance, you would know that a purely capitalistic society (as you seem to desire) is as intolerant, inefficient and undesirable as a purely socialist society (much like Venezuela).

        • José

          Nope. I don’t know much about Venezuela. I live in the United States of America. It’s a whole different place. Look it up on a map and you’ll see.

          But I have paid attention to the goings on in the US. I remember Clinton in the 1990s and Obama more recently. My portfolio performed pretty well and crime rates decreased. I also remember the ruinous economic policies of Reagan and Bush II causing skyrocketing increases in the national debt. I remember Bush invading and occupying a country illegally at the cost of a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives. I remember Bush also attacking civil liberties and that crazy orange guy now trying to do a whole lot worse. Sorry that I’m not as up on hip labels as you, but if a “Democrat Socialist utopia” means that we have a free and healthy economy, and people have liberty to enjoy their lives as they wish, and we don’t go running around invading other countries just for the heck of it, sign me up.

          • BCinBCS

            Hear, hear Jose´.

          • Thankin_Hank

            EXACTLY, AMIGO. Written so a first grader could understand it.

        • TDF

          Democratic Party. Not Democrat Party. Get it right then maybe I can get past it to consider your arguments.

        • TDF

          Take a look at the hey days of America. The time when those who are yearning for us to “Make America Great Again”. The period from 1950 to the mid 70’s. Those were times of progressive rule. High tax rates on the rich, high participation in unions, large subsidies for college. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/60-years-of-american-economic-history-told-in-1-graph/261503/

          • BCinBCS

            The problem with you TDF is that you appear to have studied and learned from history. This is Texas – how dare you!
            /s

    • WUSRPH

      I guess you think Ms. Davis was a conservative of some type. TM said many harsh things about her…..and I remember Burka as not being too friendly to Bullock….but you apparently see only what you want to see.

    • SpiritofPearl

      Maybe you’ll find what you seek in the DEMOCRATIC Party. The Democrat partymis found only on Fox News.

      You guys are so easy to spot.

  • PunkKitty

    Why do the fine people of Texas keep electing idiots like Cruz and Cornyn to office???

    • Randl Lieb

      Oh give it rest. This whole “Texas/southern states have all the crazies” meme is getting old. These idiots are being elected in just about every state across the whole country, from the local and state to the federal level.

      • Derek Terry

        I’m actually from Texas and we actually do have a lot of crazies.
        On the actual topic, Adding the word “freedom” to this bill which in fact give the companies “freedom” to do what that want, censor whomever they want, control the internet how ever they want, is so “1984” its just scary. Freedom in this case doesnt mean freedom for the end user but for the corporations.

    • Valleri Lacore

      Ted Cruz is not an idiot! Neither is Cornyn! I take it you’re a liberal or you wouldn’t say such things! These are good Christian men who believe whole-heatedly in the Constitution and the rights of We the People. These men can recite word for word the constitution and know it’s meanings; I take it you know about the Constitution and how your very rights are written in there as well?

  • AmmoAlamo

    Sad, Texas elected not one but two corporate tools to the Senate. Why? I have no idea.

    When the average Repub voter sees their SS disappear, sees their new-found healthcare evporate, sees their parents and church elders starving from loss of benefits, loss of meals on wheels…and sees their internet slowed to slohan-dial-up speeds because every web page has to first load twenty directed ads, it will be too late.

    For-profit corporations are interested in profit, first and foremost, not in the best internet for the most people. The Internet will become like cable TV – five hundred channels full of commercials and not a thing worth watching, unless you like watching fake reality tv, fake news, talking heads saying nothing, five different channels with various iterations of a judge judy, and vocal hucksters extolling the virtues of super vacuums and expensive potato slicers – but wait! There’s more!.

    Freedom from regulation is not a good thing, think about de-regulating the Food and Drug Administration and what might then show up in your child’s lunch. Stick around awhile to see the results of Trump gutting the EPA, and watch your kids and grand kids sick from fumes, toxic runoff, tainted water, lead in the environment stunting their intellectual growth until we have a generation truly unable to reason, think, or learn. Research how worker protections under OSHA have been gutted ever since the US Chamber of Commerce sued OSHA back in the early 90s.

    Those are just three examples of de-regulation and how it is not good for anyone except corporations – then think of Citizens United. It was the greatest illogic of the recent century. Real live humans pronounced that corporations are people. How ignorant can you get? I will only believe that a corporation is a person the day the whole corporation gets life without parole when their defective products kill people – think defective autos – or when deaths occur due to tainted foodstuffs. Hey, the Chinese executed some bigshots for bad corporate behavior, maybe they can teach us something.

    • BCinBCS

      Well said.

  • Randl Lieb

    “privacy rules are bad regulations that need to be repealed.”
    And up is down and 1+1=7

  • David Schultz

    The end of Internet Neutrality will be a great victory for Neoliberals. Comcast/MSNBC and TW/Spectrum/CNN will dominate the Internet as the two largest providers. These two neoliberal behemoths will now have the power to make the Internet just like network television. Ted Cruz finally gets his ultimate revenge on the Republican Party.

  • enp1955

    Any time Ted says that he is doing something to help consumers, he is lying. It’s that simple. He has never once done anything or proposed anything that would help the average American citizen.

  • Raven Dupres

    Every time they try to pass a bill that would take away privileges from the ordinary public, they attach some sort of “freedom” tag to it. This one is “Freedom to get Less From your ISP”. They also attach “family” to bills that would take way all sorts of rights from people who have very few rights to begin with. The Family Society Against LGBTQ people” and the “Family Bill Against the Right of Women to Control Their Reproductive System”. Just translating for you what all those Freedom and Family bills are really saying.