Few things have revolutionized culture and the modern world as much as the internet has. Art, music, news, gaming, communications, shopping, education, politics- there’s not a single aspect of life that hasn’t been affected by it. Heck, revolutions that no one imagined could take place have, and the innovations and collaboration the internet has given a platform to have largely been credited as playing an integral role.
At no other time has humanity had such access to democratic development and discussion.
And that time may now in fact be passing, with the striking down of net neutrality by a D.C. circuit court in January of this year.
“Net neutrality”, in essence, is what ensures that you can access a small site- such as this blog- just as quickly as you’d be able to access Facebook, YouTube, or any major website. It’s what helped create the internet as we know it- a crazy platform where everything and everyone, for good or ill, is given an equal voice.
The fact that net neutrality was struck down means, among other things, that companies can be (and probably will be) charged for their place on the internet by the major internet service and cable providers.
Both of them.
Okay, there are actually more than two of them, but we really only have a few nation-wide companies in the States and a smattering of local ISPs relegated to some tiny geographic location. If you live in some small town in Utah, there might be only one ISP in town- you go with them or you don’t at all.
Now ISP Comcast just won a battle against Netflix in their (Comcast’s) attempt to charge them for the data they use in streaming videos. Comcast’s argument was that since Netflix was taking up a lot of space with which to stream all their videos, they should be obliged to pay more. What this means is that the burden of something’s popularity is suddenly placed upon the people providing the content. The greater implications of this would be that huge swaths of the internet will have limits placed on how much they can grow. Let me offer an example-
Imagine a free education site was to start streaming lectures that everyone could access. Say they got really popular and started attracting a lot of traffic. Because they’re taking up more and more space, an ISP like Comcast could then charge that website money. Of course, that site being free, they’d either have to start charging people or gut their content or shut down entirely.
So yes, it’s basically internet feudalism.
They might, alternatively, just choose to slice up the internet and sell it off to you at jacked-up prices. What used to be free access for all will become privatized territory you can rent if you’ve got the cash.
I mentioned that the average person doesn’t really have much say when it comes to options in ISPs. Well, that’s only going to get worse, as this year Comcast is merging with Time Warner Cable, giving them control of approximately 75% of the ISP market. The deal still has to be approved by the FCC, but seeing as the FCC is run by the former head of the largest ISP lobbies in American history, we can probably guess which side they’re going to come down on.
In summary, an increasingly small group of corporations is working in tandem with each other and a corrupt government agency to gut the single greatest invention of the modern era. What on earth are we gonna do?
I have no idea.
That’s why I’m coming to you people. I’m just some ****** with a computer and delusions of eloquence, I have no clue what to do.
But maybe you guys will. So spread the word, stay educated, and keep giving these swine the fight of their lives. As much as they’re going to play this off as the inevitable (heck, beneficial) invisible hand of Capitalism, know that you do have options.
Again- spread the word, collaborate, and draw your lines in the sand. I will be damned if I have to pay for my beloved gifs!