Rand Paul Moves to Block Net Neutrality

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Senator Rand Paul, in the middle of a fledgling White House campaign, is not finished making waves as a lawmaker just yet. On Wednesday, Paul introduced legislation in the Senate meant to block the FCC from imposing regulations on the internet. Earlier this year, the Democratic majority in the FCC voted to enforce what’s come to be known as “net neutrality,” a set of rules intended to make ISPs treat all traffic the same. But in the process of reducing the power of gigantic internet companies, many conservatives fear they are opening Pandora’s Box.

“The Internet has successfully flourished without the heavy hand of government interference,” Paul said in a statement accompanying his resolution. “Stated simply, I do not want to see the government regulating the Internet.”

Paul, who has often been cited as the Republican most likely to draw millennials into the fold, is fighting an unpopular battle. Conservatives wary of big government have plenty of legitimate concerns about net neutrality, but this is a movement that has been wholly embraced by many young Americans. If Paul and other Republicans want to take a stand against it, they will have to do a better job of explaining their position in a way that makes sense. Merely calling it the “Obamacare of the internet,” as Ted Cruz once said, is not going to be enough.

The most common refrain is that Republicans are only fighting this because they are in the pockets of the Comcasts, the Time Warners, and the AT&Ts of the world. Either that, or they are simply opposing this because Obama is for it. And when they make comments about net neutrality that don’t quite match up with the facts, they give their opponents all the license they need to write them off as clueless partisans.

To be sure, the problem is not with net neutrality. If the FCC were to keep internet companies from splitting access into cable-esque tiers or extorting popular websites for more money, all would be well. The problem is with handing over authority to the FCC in the first place. Today the concern is that ISPs may not treat all traffic equally. But what about the concerns of tomorrow? Will the FCC, now vested with a certain amount of regulatory control over the internet, see fit to censor content? Will websites be fined if enough parents complain about nudity or bad language? The possibilities are grim, and these are the concerns that Republicans should be promoting.

Even if one were to dismiss these concerns as fantasy, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s much harder to de-regulate than to regulate. This is one cat that doesn’t like to go back into the bag. Once the federal government has its clutches on the internet, it will take an act of God to wrest it away. Thus, at its most basic level, this is another expansion of an already bloated system. That means higher taxes, more bureaucratic waste, and less freedom. And if you can’t make coherent arguments against that, then you have no business running for president.