A couple of weeks ago a federal court said that the FCC had dropped the ball on net neutrality, thus those who own the gateway to the internet could do what they wish to do in controlling access. Immediately the alarm bells started ringing around the country. In a world where the news media is owned by increasingly right wing companies, the internet has acted much like the printing press in the backroom did during our revolution. No matter what the British tried to do they could not stop the flow of information because every time they took out a printing press another popped up to take its place.
Thus since its inception the internet has acted as a conduit for information not approved by the powers that be whether they be business interests or government officials. This is do in the most part to the fact that until this recent ruling the internet was operated under the concept of ‘neutrality.’ That is that all content was equally accessible no matter what it was.
We saw what that availability can do last Saturday as 100,000 North Carolinians showed up at the state capitol to join in a “moral Monday” protest against the state government despite a near total blackout from the main stream media which did not approve of this protest. Information passed among potential protestors turned this into a major event. However, it was not major enough for the main stream to even do stories on on the protest. Much like the protests around the world when Bushco invaded Iraq, the media pretended it didn’t happen. But as happened with the Iraq protests, stories of the protest in Raleigh were soon filling in the gigantic holes left by the media.
The immediate question that should be raised in every citizens mind is whether any company or companies should be able to control access to the internet either by individuals or groups. Should access be premised on some set of beliefs or more likely how much money a person has? Businesses and civil liberties groups in the US decry controls on the internet in totalitarian states like China or Burma. Yet we are about to let business perform the same function in the US that we condemn from governments in other countries.
Now as if to stick their proverbial thumb in our eyes, cable companies Comcast and Time-Warner have declared their intention to wed. Part of what they want as a wedding present is controlling access to the internet for about half of America. Another gift on their wish list is to control your access to their approved news, thus the number of news sources will go down one as NBC and CNN will come under the same umbrella. As an aside, this does prove that what Mitt Romney said at the Iowa State Fair is true. “Corporations are people, my friends.” Yep and they marry and register for gifts.
Should the internet be treated as a commonly held utility with availability to all as it is in most western countries? The US is way behind the rest of the world in accessibility and speed. In countries like Japan and France internet speeds are a hundred times faster and the costs often less than half what we pay. The biggest reason that their internet is held in common is so that businesses can have access to the information super highway.
Having access to a robust and open information super highway is every bit as important to businesses as open highways and open ports are.Putting control of both access and content on the internet by corporations seems to be a major backward step. Backward steps seem to be the way to go in the US these days as more and more people reject science and accept religion. While the US looks to put new brakes on what will be the major tool of business in the future, competitors around the world are looking to speed up and open up. Notice that I am not even going to argue the civil liberties aspects of the internet since the damage this direction can do to business should be scary enough to get Americans lining up to say “don’t turn the internet over to corporations!”
And the internet situation should makes us want to pause and question what other aspects of life should be held by the country as something which the American people hold in common. Is the health care system something which should include all Americans and thus be held in common? I would argue so just from the aspect of controlling disease. We will continue to have more exotic diseases that will be near impossible to control if a quarter of our populace is unable to access the health care system.
Should education continue to be a system that requires some level of attainment for all our citizens or should it be a system open to those who can afford to send their children to schools?
What about the very basics of life – should the air be clean enough to breathe and the water clean enough to drink? What about basic heat and electricity? If a person has little money, should they be cut off from these basics.
Was this country founded to serve the rich? Or was it founded for our mutual help and defense?