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Markos Moulitsas: GOP’s not neutrality

Greg Nash

With the battle over net neutrality fully engaged, the words out of Speaker John Boehner’s office, to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, were peculiar: “We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors.”

Wow, House Republicans sure are worried about the future of the Internet! Of course, their words would carry more weight if they weren’t trying to upend the same framework that delivered the modern marvel that is the Internet and its never-ending fountain of job-creating innovation.

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In short, “net neutrality” is the principle that Internet service providers (mostly cable and phone companies, but satellite as well) must provide the same level of access to all Internet content providers without favoring or blocking specific services. The fear is those service providers will extort payments from better-funded content providers, leaving the rest of the Internet in the slow lane, or worse, blocked. It is a bedrock founding principle of everything that has made the egalitarian Internet what it is today.

It is also the status quo. The net neutrality movement merely seeks to codify the very online environment that delivered “the creation of American private sector jobs,” that generated incredible “economic freedom and innovation” and that built “one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors.” If House Republicans were truly fighting for those principles, they would join the net neutrality movement. Instead, they are fighting for the legacy companies that own the fiber and little else, companies that long ago forgot what words like “innovation” and “vibrancy” actually mean.

Thus, it’s amazing to watch Republicans try to claim with a straight face that allowing service providers to saddle the current free and open Internet with tollbooths will somehow lead to innovation.

Actual innovators aren’t so stupid, or blinded by campaign contributions.

Silicon Valley venture capitalists signed a letter warning that the death of net neutrality would squelch innovation. “If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level playing field,” they wrote. One of those investors, Nick Grossman, wrote on his site, “This open market environment has made it possible for tiny startups to build global platforms. For example, it allowed Foursquare to get to 100,000 users on $25,000 dollars and Tumblr to reach millions before they hired their 10th employee. They were able to compete on equal terms with the largest incumbents, and gain the love of users purely on the merits of their service.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 of the top Internet companies, including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, eBay and Amazon, signed a letter similarly arguing for the status quo, for the free and open Internet that allowed their companies to flourish. “Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination.”

Republicans love to pretend they’re the party of business and innovation, but their hostility to net neutrality betrays their true allegiances, to old-world power and money.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.