I am on an email list that sends out updates on “net neutrality.” Today I got one saying that various forces in congress are trying to undo the FCC’s classification of the Internet as a public utility, which it obviously is. As such, it comes under regulation not just by FCC but by every state in the union. They asked me to send $5 to help them in their battle. That’s a bit like putting in fluorescent bulbs to fight global warming, a feel-good but otherwise pointless exercise.
The whole of the neutrality battle leaves me confused, so I hope others can clarify it for me. There was a time when we all used dial-up for Internet, and people were buying second phone numbers. The nation’s phone infrastructure was stressed, but the problem soon righted itself as we all strung cables out of the wall for high-speed dedicated Internet service. And now it’s a wi-fi/4G world and will continually improve.
The assumption with the neutrality battle is that we are dealing with a limited commodity, band width, but I don’t think we are. It will expand, and what we use today will seem dial-up by comparison ten years from now.
Something else is going on. The band width cartel that has naturally formed is openly threatening to slow down web sites that do not pony up extra dough. That would effectively shut down web sites like this one and tens of millions of others. I doubt the driving force is naked greed. The Internet giants have already cordoned off the market and can print money as they please.
So I am thinking a little more in line with my general sense that we live in a totalitarian society, an iron fist barely concealed beneath a velvet glove. The objective of elimination of net neutrality would have nothing to do with available band width or constraints on corporate greed. Rather, its effect would be its objective – to silence all of those voices that have so changed the landscape, tiny to mid-sized Internet sites that nag nag nag at the heels of power. Mine is nothing, and I suffer no illusions.
I can access information from all over the globe that would have been relegated to the “alternative media” just twenty years ago. Alex Jones, for instance, is a potent force with millions of patrons (I am not one). Assuming he is the genuine article, a real voice of dissent (I do not suffer that illusion either), his traffic would slow to a crawl, and he’d effectively be silenced. There are thousands of other sites of far more value that would also be quashed by this corporate attack on band width freedom.
The object, then, of elimination of net neutrality would be to return us to the good old days when the bulk of the population was relegated to a few heavily censored sources for news, like NBC and New York Times, for instance. For that reason, I expect the pressure on FCC to return Internet to its unnatural designation as a non-utility to grow to hysterical screaming. It is indeed a monumental struggle, and $5 from a few concerned citizens ain’t gonna get it done. Is DemandProgress.org, the source of that $5 request, a blind alley used to distract real concern, make sure it all goes nowhere? That’s all I can make of such a pointless gesture.
This is just the beginning. The object, as I see it, is to quash real first amendment freedom before it gets out of hand.