Imagining a Future Without a Free Internet
Nia Hampton | Tuesday December 5th 2017
What will life post-“free” internet look like? Will rates of anxiety and depression lower when people can no longer afford to overindulge in “screen time”? Will high-quality stationary become all the rage as we go back to sending love letters instead of unsolicited nudes? Or maybe the general population will continue to grow divided as the internet gets smaller, thereby only allowing the opinion of those who can afford to position themselves at the top of Google search. Where will the subcultures go to flourish?
These are questions that all need answers as December 14th approaches. That’s the day Trumps’ FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will move forward with his plan to kill Net Neutrality.
“Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.
Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.”
Actually, this is already happening. On Nov. 16th the FCC voted to rollback “Lifeline”, the technology service used to provide phone and internet service to low income families. According to Blavity.com:
“Republicans rejoiced over the agency’s decision to transition the program over to the jurisdiction of the states. ‘States play an important role in preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs, in addition to ensuring that people have access to essential communications services,’ Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said in a statement on Thursday. Critics, however, fear that a spending cap could potentially inhibit the program’s effectiveness and are concerned that a re-seller ban would make it difficult for Lifeline recipients to outsource telecommunication providers that will support the program. Democrats rebut that these alterations to the low-income housing program are based on outdated research, so, by giving the states more power over the usage of Lifeline, they will curtail access to the Internet for many poor communities.”
Essentially, if the FCC gets their way, we will all be at the mercy of big data corps who will have free range and control of the internet. The lack of regulation on the internet means that accessing the world wide web would become a matter of spending. And what will that mean for so many self-employed people whose sole access to finance is the internet? Freelance rates in journalism are already at an all-time low, but imagine having to pay even more money to access job opportunities. That’s like paying an entry fee to get into the building of your employer.
What about the countless social movements that are dependent on the internet? If the FCC wins, big data will be able to effectively dictate or shut down the way we interact with one another. From Nymag.com,
“In Portgual (and in Spain), mobile providers offer packages that count data differently based on the apps you want to use. Want streaming video like Netflix and Hulu? If you don’t want to pay exorbitant data fees, add on that $10 package. Want to access sites like Facebook at cheap rates? Just pay our monthly “social-network package” fee. Suddenly, your ability to do all the stuff you’re used to doing on your phone, at the prices you’re used to paying, is subject to the draconian policies of your cell-phone company.
It’s not hard to imagine how that could get implemented for home internet service as well. Maybe a ‘basic’ package that guarantees normal-speed access to email, Google, Wikipedia, supplemented by tiered or thematic packages that ensure access to the other sites you might want. So what happens to your Netflix? Imagine if you had to pay an extra fee to your ISP every month to ensure that you could get your Netflix streams at the quality and speed you’re used to — for no reason other than your ISP wanting to make an extra buck. This becomes legally feasible under the FCC’s new rules. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans who lack real competitive choice for internet access, you don’t have much in the way of options.”
So now that you are effectively shook, what can we do about this? Make a lot of noise about it and tell your congressman! Don’t let this get swept under the rug while Trump continues to distract us with his nonsense. This is a very big deal, and affects our ATPB community directly, as small, community-driven sites stand to be most negatively affected.
I remember when I first got a computer, and I inserted that AOL disk that would make that weird noise and connect me to the internet. If someone would have told me that the internet would have been my main source of income for the majority of my early twenties I probably would have stared blankly at them like only a confused tween can. Since that time, the world wide web has changed so much, and so quickly. I just hope these next few changes aren’t as devastating as they could be.