New House Majority Leader Opposes Net Neutrality, Just Like His Predecessor

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Yesterday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy won the Republican Party election to become the new House Majority Leader. Outgoing Rep. Eric Cantor, who held the position previously, unexpectedly lost his primary earlier this month, and announced that he would resign his post in his party’s leadership shortly afterwards.

Why should you care about the new House Majority? He’s been held up in the media recently as a friend of the technology industry, someone with an ear to the issues that impact the industry. Several of his positions, however, appear to be in direct contrast with current Valley sentiment

Politico’s headline from this week is telling: “Tech riding high with expected McCarthy ascension. Here’s The Hill earlier this week as well: “McCarthy’s rise could be boon for tech.” There is even more of the same.

Following the vote, TechNet, a technology organization built to facilitate discussion between this country’s technology and political capitals, released a welcoming statement regarding Rep. McCarthy’s new job that is worth reading. TechNet counts Microsoft, Intel, Google, Apple, and a host of other technology companies, as members.

Here’s the comment, from TechNet CEO Linda Moore:

Few members of Congress have as deep an understanding and appreciation for the economic impact and social change created by technology as Leader McCarthy.  With his California roots and longstanding relationships inside the technology community, he knows what public policies make the innovation economy thrive.  TechNet and our member companies congratulate Leader McCarthy on his election and look forward to working together on issues important to our country.

And, here’s a comment from the Information Technology Industry Council’s Andy Halataei, its senior vice president of government relations:

Kevin McCarthy understands our industry and he understands how our industry works.  He has been proactive in reaching out to us to hear both what we think and to give us a sense of how the House is going to address our priorities with regard to job creation and growing the economy.

In his new role he’ll come in with that fundamental understanding and knowledge base of what the tech community needs to grow jobs here.  The House has already passed a solid patent litigation reform bill.  We have some remaining priorities as an industry that we want to see and we’re hopeful Congress will move on them.  The benefit of having Mr. McCarthy in the majority leader post is that when you go in to talk to him about economic issues or how to expand job creation, particularly in the tech sector, he already understands the fundamental premise of where you are coming from.

Neither is effusive, but hardly sharp-elbowed either.

Backing the claim that Rep. McCarthy “gets” tech are his frequent visits to the area. That lends credence to the idea that the new majority leader is at least willing to listen to the Valley’s views on matters.

However, as Politico recently noted, “[t]he good-natured California Republican and expected majority leader hasn’t devised many tech-related bills or even hammered away on the industry’s core issues.” Given that, I’d be a bit more reticent than I might be to call his victory a win for tech.

Where does he land on the issues? The good Representative signed a letter this year with other House GOP leadership opposing net neutrality. The key excerpt:

“We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors. At a time when technology businesses need certainty to innovate, this is not the time for the FCC to engage in a counterproductive effort to even further regulate the Internet.”

Late last year the House GOP at least contemplated tying the “blocking” of net neutrality to a debt ceiling bill, and another recent piece of legislation would block the FCC from regulating the Internet under certain legal authority.

In short I’m having a mildly difficult time parsing the narrative that Rep. McCarthy is so vividly pro-tech, when at a minimum on this issue he is in opposition to much of the Valley.

A cadre of companies so extensive that I won’t even bother to list them all signed a letter in favor of net neutrality, including the usual suspects like Dropbox, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Lyft, LinkedIn, Zynga and Yahoo, to name a few.

McCarthy also voted against yesterday’s amendment in the house banning the government from demanding backdoor access to technology products, and requiring the use of a warrant before accessing the communications of American citizens under certain legal purview.

McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this article.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER ANDREW MALONE UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)