Republican Senate candidates say they would not back net neutrality
Posted April 28, 2014
Updated April 29, 2014
Research Triangle Park, N.C. — The four leading candidates in North Carolina's Republican U.S. Senate primary all said Monday that they would oppose so-called "net neutrality" legislation and regulations, which would require Internet service providers to give equal access to all content providers, including streaming services such as Netflix.
Net neutrality is a major issue in the tech community and the subject of controversial Federal Communications Commission rule making. The commission is reportedly considering a proposal that would allow for the creation of faster lanes over which content could flow, if providers are willing to pay for it.
Some consumer advocates say this would drive up user costs and give an advantage to established companies with deep pockets over start-up companies with innovative ideas.
During a debate broadcast by UNC-TV Monday night, Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant, Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte and state House Speaker Thom Tillis all said they oppose allowing the federal government to set rules for how much priority companies like Time Warner Cable needed to give certain kinds of Internet traffic.
Brannon said the Constitution doesn't give the federal government the power to regulate such traffic.
"The worst thing in the world we could do is for the federal government to put in barriers to make things fair," Brannon said, adding that, when the federal government tries to enforce fairness, it is akin to socialism.
Grant, too, said there "should be no government involvement," while Harris said, "I would oppose the federal government getting involved."
Tillis said that competition should be allowed to govern Internet speed. He pointed out that, in many places in North Carolina, consumers have a choice of Internet service providers.
Left unsaid: Those areas tend to be urban areas such as Raleigh, and there are still parts of North Carolina without access to high-speed Internet.
"The last thing we need is the government to tell cable providers and Internet providers how fast or slow the content needs to be," Tillis said.
It's worth noting that Tillis has faced criticism from a fellow Republican lawmaker for his support of a bill that would prohibit cities and counties from creating their own Internet services.
It is unclear what Hagan's position might be on the current FCC net neutrality proposal, but she is on the record as generally supporting the concept.
"I support net neutrality because it speaks to the values central to our American Democracy – free speech and equal opportunity. With an open Internet, we can ensure communities throughout the state of North Carolina and the nation receive equal access to the Internet as well as the information contained there, to help ensure our country can compete on a global level," she said in 2008.