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There are a lot of issues at stake in this year's presidential election, but none affects cord cutters quite so much as net neutrality. Net neutrality – the idea that your internet service should allow you to access all sites, without price tiers or data throttling – has long been a hot topic in Washington, but a changing of the guard could draw new attention to the issue.

Net neutrality has plenty of friends and foes already on the battlefield, but none will loom larger than the incoming president. That's why we're taking a look at how each of the potential commanders-in-chief would tackle the issue. Today's subject: presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

What Is Donald Trump's Position on Net Neutrality?

Donald Trump's Republican party has generally been less favorable towards net neutrality than the Democrats. That's because a non-neutral net is ostensibly a more free-market solution than a neutral one: without net neutrality protections, ISPs would be able to price their product however they see fit, even if that makes us consumers miserable (of course, some would argue that utility-like infrastructure concerns and monopolies in this market space make any free competition-based argument disingenuous, but hey, that's why this is a debate).

But just because Republicans believe something doesn't mean that Trump does. The businessman and former Democrat has run a very distinctive campaign, mixing certain far-right ideas with some surprisingly centrist ones, and his positions on things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership make it clear that he's not a strict free market guy.

Net neutrality is not a trademark issue for Trump, who makes no mention of it whatsoever on his campaign website. But we do know that he opposes it, thanks to one of his famous tweets:

This is a tough quote to unpack, because, to be frank, it doesn't really have anything to do with what net neutrality actually is.

The Fairness Doctrine that Trump is referring to here is a now-defunct FCC regulation that, until 1987, required TV broadcast media to present controversial issues in “balanced” ways. It targeted TV broadcasters, not cable providers, and had to do with content, not access. There's really nothing to connect it to net neutrality, which is in no way related to content or media, and strictly about whether or not internet service should provide access to all sites at the same price.

Trump isn't the first candidate to have attacked net neutrality while appearing to not understand what it is. Just two days before Trump's tweet, then-candidate Ted Cruz fired off a similar tweet, calling net neutrality “Obamacare for the internet.” Aside from the fact that both policies are (very generally) about regulating industries, those two things have nothing in common.

Other than that tweet, Trump and his campaign have been mum on net neutrality. All we know is that he opposes it, and that he considers it a potential source of liberal censorship.

Donald Trump's Net Neutrality Grade: F

It's not clear that Trump really understands net neutrality. It's possible that he does, and that he's deliberately obscuring the issue in order to garner support for his anti-neutrality position, but that possibility is just so much speculation. And if we take Trump at his word, we have to assume that he erroneously thinks that net neutrality is President Obama's plan to censor the internet.

Whether or not Trump really knows what net neutrality is doesn't alter the underlying reality. Regardless of whether he understands the concept or thinks it's a secret Obama plot, Trump has made it clear that he is completely against net neutrality. The only comfort for pro-neutrality voters is that Trump doesn't appear to consider the issue much of a priority.


2 thoughts on “Donald Trump Is Against Net Neutrality, to the Extent That He Even Knows What It Is

  1. Joshi says:

    Honestly, how can someone like this guy?! His views on net-neutrality does not add up. He not only wants to control the Internet by taken down sites like mega-upload or sites that he or other US politicians feels that are copyright infringement or sites commits any type of crime, he wants the government block any site he or politicians hate. Which is the reason why I would not want this person to become president.

  2. Steve Shank says:

    He says net neutrality is, “strictly about whether or not internet service should provide access to all sites at the same price.” – I like his definition of net neutrality. I would like to see it implemented efficiently and effectively.

    He quotes Trump as saying Obama’s plan is: “Obamacare for the internet.” Then he explains that he cannot understand what Trump is saying, therefore it must be wrong. It doesn’t occur to Lovely to actually look at what the other side is saying so he can understand their position. He said, “Aside from the fact that both policies are (very generally) about regulating industries, those two things have nothing in common.”

    But, they have everything in common if you are able to look at both sides of the debate. People wanted the health care system in the US to be better and cheaper. They got a huge government takeover which many believe made the health care system more expensive and worse.

    President Obama had an expanded version of net neutrality when he decided to engage the issue, specifying 5 things that needed to happen. It wasn’t as good as Lovely’s definition, but it wasn’t bad. To accomplish this he put all internet providers under the complete regulation of a huge government bureaucracy which could regulate all sorts of things, with hundreds of pages of regulations and hundreds more to come. He took a sledge hammer to the issue transferring enormous power to a Washington Bureaucracy, just like he did with Health care.

    Many people do not believe we have learned how to regulate effectively. We look at the banking industry, and many others and it appears the regulators get captured by the industry (or in some cases other special interests) which will profit from how the regulations are written and enforced. The regulators end up acting for the special interests instead of the consumers.

    The Republicans seem to feel that almost all regulations get corrupted and misused and are therefore bad. The Democrats seem to feel that almost all regulations effectively perform what they were designed for, so they are almost always good.

    The health care system could have been improved in a more moderate cleaner simple way. Net neutrality as Lovely defines it, could have been accomplished in a much cleaner simpler way.

    I personally think that giving free hand to the regulators will ultimately hurt us. For example, Comcast is implementing data caps on services that are not from them, but exempting their XFINITY services. The FCC is doing nothing. It’s been going on for quite a while. Who knows how the political battle will play out? But a simple law could have been written along the lines of Lovely’s definition where it would immediately have been clear it was illegal. Now, no one knows.

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