Trump appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, is about to cancel the Obama era protection that regulates the Internet as a public utility in the United States. The end of an open and free era will soon be behind us.
Sometimes people confuse theory and ideology with tradition and practicality. This mistake usually leads to disastrous outcomes. Human societies have existed for thousands of years and have evolved over time to think, act, and function in ways that tend to be the most efficient and useful, hopefully for the largest number of people. They might structure around different systems but systems that work are invented, innovated on and evolve and to help people survive.
In North America, we have representative democracies. Modern democratic societies are built of and by people. They are you and you can know them if you want to. Opportunities for the advancement and betterment of anyone who wants to advance or better themselves provide a primary vehicle for personal and collective success. Everyone’s road is bumpy and opportunities have never been doled out equally, leaving legacies of poverty and systemic neglect but we’re still doing better for a larger number of people than most other places on Earth.
As clumsy and messy and loud and obnoxious as it is, free market democracy has proven to be the most successful model for peaceful organization and personal wealth creation ever devised and attempted by human societies. The Internet is the ultimate open range society, one mostly unfettered by regulation and control. This goes for both government and corporate interest. Neither has excerpted very much control over the Internet. Net Neutrality regulation under Title II effectively guarantees the Internet and Web remain open and free of corporate interference. That right wingers would oppose Net Neutrality demonstrates they don’t understand the very principles their ideology is supposed to embrace.
Just as 19th and 20th century industrial society was shedding jobs throughout the American heartland, the Internet opened an unlimited space to create and communicate. The only immediate barriers to access were a communications device and an account. If one could afford both, the rest was limitless and wide open and only metered by your level of knowledge and willingness to learn more. For the most part the Internet remains so today, but not for long. The American government is poised to remove the legislative protection, known as Title II, which guarantees a free and open web.
The Internet, as you know it today, delivers all data to your computer equally. Though you might pay a subscription fee to Netflix or Hulu, you do not have to pay your Internet Service Provider anything extra to use either streaming service. The data transmitted to you by those services is treated the same as the endless series of inspirational quotes featuring images of cute cats your batty aunt sends you via Email, or the right-wing conspiracy website your middle aged uncle reads when contemplating them chemtrails. What if your Internet Service Provider had a deal with Disney (which has an ownership stake in Hulu and thus actively hates Netflix) to slow or impede Netflix packets in order to offer faster throughput to packets from Hulu and Disney’s new streaming service? Would that not offer an unfair advantage to Disney in the area served by that ISP? There would most likely be a way to pay for full access to the Internet but, like full access cable it’s likely to be expensive. The neighbouring region might have a different set of structured accounts for their Internet access. What was a tool of an open and free market might suddenly become a series of expensive gated communities.
Our society is built on connectivity. We’re wired to move quickly, to reply and respond and be responsible. We are a far more competitive culture than before and in order to compete, we need a level field to play on. The Internet remains a lifeboat for tens of millions of people who would otherwise be unemployed in today’s post-industrial North American society. By removing Net Neutrality provisions, the Trump administration is effectively destroying the free and open web and closing an unlimited range of opportunity to the relative few who can afford to be there.
American readers are urged to call their congressional representatives immediately. You should also write the FCC, just to get your opinions on record, for what that’s worth. Better yet, call the FCC chairman, Mr. Pai, at (202) 418-1000. If you rely on the Internet for work, entertainment, personal development, or well, virtually anything, Net Neutrality protects your right to enjoy and access the greatest communications tool ever invented. The Internet became a golden egg laying goose. Its neck is literally on the chopping block.