How Big Corporate Money Pushes Net Neutrality

Posted: Nov 13, 2014 12:30 PM

On one side: Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and the other companies you love to hate. On the other side: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and the other companies you don't quite trust.

This is net neutrality.

The debate is typically framed as big corporate interests against humble public-good advocates like... Google. The reality is that this is a clash of giant, self-interested corporations on both sides. Exhibit A is a piece on Gawker-owned Gizmodo about the money that big cable has thrown around:

Minutes after President Obama unveiled his plan for net neutrality yesterday, Republicans leaders like Ted Cruz came out swinging. You can chalk up the backlash to more than just partisan spite; Cruz has taken his share of campaign money from telecom giants. And he's far from the exception.

Democrats and Republicans alike received over $8 million from the four major telecom companies and their trade group in the 2014 election alone. For some context, the top five pharmaceutical groups spent only half as much in the same cycle.

If we're saying that money buys motivation and intentions, let's take a look at Barack Obama - the man with the big net neutrality plan right now - and the big corporations pushing net neutrality. Obama also took money from the big telcos like Comcast and AT&T - but took in a lot more from the big corporate internet giants. Via OpenSecrets' database of company and employee contributions, President Obama took over $800,000 from Google, over $800,000 from Microsoft, over $115,000 from Amazon, nearly $100,000 from Facebook, $80,000 from Yahoo!, $80,000 from Reddit's corporate parent - and these are just from the biggest groups involved. Take a look at the organizations involved with pro-neutrality organization The Internet Association - these are not small-time content producers.

We don't have to get into the degree to which money buys legislation - I typically tend to think money follows prior beliefs, not that it changes them - but it shouldn't be surprising or mysterious that the pro-regulation money is going to liberals while anti-regulation money goes to conservatives. These are the general ideological coalitions that our parties consist of.

On Gizmodo, they also note that there's only one senator on the Senate subcommittee tasked with internet regulation that hasn't taken telecom money - Maria Cantwell - and that it's "no coincidence" that Sen. Cantwell is a big net neutrality proponent.

Who is Sen. Cantwell's single largest corporate contributor? It's also "no coincidence" - it's pro-net neutrality corporation Microsoft.