Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Net Neutrality and Obamacare: Are There Similarities?

So Senator Ted Cruz claimed that Net Neutrality was like Obamacare. That spawned a number of comments about how he wrong. I even read one article "hoping" that he was right because Obamacare was a success.

Not to wade too much into the polarized politics of it, I suspect that whatever comes out of the current Net Neutrality debate will actually be a lot like Obamacare -- but I mean that in an entirely different way. When Sen. Cruz talks references Obamacare, what he's talking about is government involvement in health care, the regulation bogeyman, and "government overreaching". Remember the message, "regulation bad. Evil." with the subtext of, "our friends can't make as much money." When I reference Obamacare, I'm thinking more about the evolution of the legislation and the interests that must be addressed.

If you remember back in the early negotiations around Obamacare, one of the first things that they did was to sign an agreement with the big pharmaceutical companies to limit the impact of the legislation on drug companies. Why? Well, for the drug companies, this "concession" meant that they could count on their profits even if the legislation went through. Big pharma has big pockets, and they were part of the reason that healthcare reform was quashed back in the 1990s. This agreement was an attempt to take them out of the game.

Then there was another aspect of healthcare reform -- a single payer universal system. Medicare for all. It never even got to sniff the paper the legislation was printed on because most people understand that it would kneecap the for-profit health insurance industry. Instead, they kept it off the table and pushed through "everyone must buy health insurance", a broad concession to the insurance industry. Not that those guys weren't making money before, and not that they didn't complain through the process. The net effect was designed to be, we give you guys more business so you don't lose money.

What these two aspects of Obamacare have in common is the idea of finding ways to appease the moneyed lobbying interest while putting a public "we're taking care of you" wrapper on it. For years now, that's the same solution that they've been trying to find for Net Neutrality. To find a way to support the telecom and cable lobbying, to ensure that they can take whatever profits they want, all while finding enough of the right words to make you feel like you got things reeled back from Comcast being able to say, "whatever, I do what I want".

This is why they floated the more recent regulation saying in essence, "mostly net neutrality for the stuff that goes into your house, but big money companies like Comcast and Netflix can negotiate fast lanes." See Mom and Dad, you won't have to pay a premium to send grandma and grandpa that video of the school play. It just may take a couple of hours.

So when Ted Cruz says Net Neutrality is like Obamacare, he's not far off. That being said, Cruz isn't really playing to your interest -- unless your name is Comcast, Verizon, or AT&T.

And how about President Obama -- why weigh in on this now? I think that this was a, "we've crossed the threshold of the midterm elections, it's not like I have anything to lose one some of these issues." Thus, net neutrality and immigration.

Meanwhile, back at the "independent" FCC, they're going to have to look for some sort of path that can answer the issue while keeping "the industry" happy.

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