Why Jeb Bush's New Stand on Net Neutrality Will Matter in 2016

March 11th 2015

Alicia Lutes

Likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush has spoken out against the FCC's net neutrality action. Looks like Bush — who was speaking in Iowa, the starting ground for any presidential hopeful — has made sure that net neutrality will be an issue in 2016. After all, probable Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has been a proponent of a net neutrality, even going so far as to co-sponsor the 2006 Internet Freedom Preservation Act. And as recently as Feb. 24th, Clinton reiterated her support, indicating that she's is in favor of the FCC's new net neutrality rules.

Bush spoke on the matter over the weekend, saying that "the idea of regulating access to the Internet with a 1934 law is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard," according to The Hill. the "1934" reference is similar to a recent, sarcastic press release from Verizon, an internet service provider (ISP) that does not like the new rules:

Net neutrality would stifle innovation?

Bush also said, according to The Verge, that the FCC's net neutrality enforcement would "stifle competition" and "innovation." That echoes the biggest complaint from major internet service providers (such as Time Warner and AT&T), which argue that the FCC's regulations will force the internet into an innovation holding-pattern by limiting profits that could be invested in new technology and also taking away any incentive to innovate. The counterargument is that the status quo of net neutrality (which has essentially been the rule as long as the internet has existed) has not stopped companies like Google and Verizon from creating some fiber optic networks that transmit data at rapid speeds. Additionally, as has been reported by Vox, companies are making higher profits than ever before, yet they're still not investing much money in innovation. Instead, many of the ISPs have plowed their profits into dividends and share buybacks that help their stockholders.

Putting aside innovation in internet delivery, the loudest argument in favor of net neutrality focuses on overall innovation. The fear by many net neutrality proponents is that a world where some data is treated different from others will hurt new businesses who can't afford to pay an ISP to move their data at high speeds.

Net neutrality in 2016

Because Bush -- and other likely Republican candidates -- have come out against net neutrality, it's almost a guarantee that this will be an issue in the 2016 campaign. It might also be an issue that helps Democrats like Clinton.

"Republicans are playing checkers when Democrats are playing chess," Berin Szoka, executive director of the libertarian group TechFreedom, told National Journal last November. "Republicans are their own worst enemy on this issue. When they bash net neutrality, they just shoot themselves in the foot with Millennials and the tech industry."