Some people call it "net neutrality."
Here at Motherboard, we call it free speech.
Because without a free, open and unfettered internet, we wouldn't be able to tell you that Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah Republican, just introduced a bill to kill the FCC's net neutrality rules, along with his sidekick Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
And we wouldn't be able to tell you that Lee's bill is the expected second step of a choreographed maneuver involving Trump's FCC and the Republican-controlled Congress to destroy US net neutrality protections. Last week, Trump's FCC chief Pai announced a proposal to dismantle the agency's open internet protections. This week, it's Congress's turn.
On Monday, Lee introduced the so-called "Restoring Internet Freedom Act," a bill that would "nullify the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet Order and prohibit the FCC from issuing a similar rule in the future."
"This is a good moment to take note of who's standing up for the public and who's auditioning to be a Comcast lobbyist."
In addition to Cruz, Lee's co-sponsors include many of the most prominent conservative Republicans in the US Senate, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Sen. Cruz was particularly proud of the bill, which has absolutely zero chance of passing the Senate.
"I am proud to work with my friend Mike Lee on the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, a bill that rolls back former President Obama's power grab, protects open internet principles, and recognizes the transformative effect that the internet has had on our lives, generating billions of dollars of new economic activity and millions of jobs, largely free of government's heavy hand," Sen. Cruz said in a statement.
"Net neutrality" is a boring name, it's true—but don't let the naming games distract from the core issue. Net neutrality is not a complicated idea. It just means that internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon can't favor their own content, block rival services, or sell online "fast lanes" to Hollywood. And they can't stifle or censor controversial speech on their networks either.
Sen. Cruz, in particular, has shown extreme contempt for net neutrality, and made no secret of his intention to kill the FCC's rules. The Texas lawmaker famously, and bizarrely, called net neutrality "Obamacare for the internet," in a Twitter message than baffled many of his own supporters.
Public interest advocates were not impressed by Lee's bill, which is clearly intended as a signaling maneuver designed to appeal to the hard-right faction of the Republican base—and the corporate lobbyists who've been working so hard to dismantle the FCC's free speech rules.
"This is a good moment to take note of who's standing up for the public and who's auditioning to be a Comcast lobbyist," Craig Aaron, CEO of DC-based public interest group Free Press Action Fund, told Motherboard. "It looks like the entire leadership of the Republican Party is more interested in padding the profits of already gilded phone and cable companies rather than protecting their own constituents. This is depressing if not surprising."