I tend to be a fan of the internet, and I am sure I am not alone. While the internet may have much unwholesome or offensive content, it is where many people find their news, gather recipes, post pictures of cats, and watch videos of teenage boys shooting fire works at each other. What’s not to love?
The world wide web is an expanse of information, entertainment, and innovation. It is here that many find outlets for their passions in the form of blogs, visual art, and crafts on sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt, and Etsy. It’s where aspiring musicians share their talent and seek exposure on platforms such as SoundCloud. And it is where many have sought to find financial support for their passion projects, or even physical needs, through crowd funding.
It stands as the only space where any individual can carve out his or her own niche. The beauty of the internet is that it is largely not owned by anyone. It is predominantly an unrestricted space for the exchange and sharing of ideas, art, information, and knowledge. Sure there is garbage and false information, but it is our responsibility as individuals to sift through that mess ourselves. The internet is a near infinite resource!
In 2014, Kester Brewin re-released his book Mutiny!– Why We Love Pirates and How They Can Save Us for free online here. Originally published in 2012, Brewin made this work accessible online, no charge, in the interest of “enriching the commons.” His decision to release it into the public domain was to be in keeping with the premise of his book. The book covers the social and economic history surrounding piracy, the intent and development of copyright law, and the implications of sailing under the mark of a dead man. While I encourage you to take the time to read all seven chapters, it is Brewin’s discussion of the internet that spurred me on to tracking down Mutiny! this week. Brewin describes the internet as being the new “commons,” a space for the free exchange and cross-pollination of ideas and innovation. Brewin’s discussion mostly concerns Facebook and Google’s selling or sharing of their users’ personal information, and the development of algorithms that cater ads to one’s surmised personal interests. But today, I believe the greatest threat to the commons internet is not Google and Zuckerberg.
This Thursday May 18, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission will vote to move forward with rolling back net neutrality. The proposal comes to floor on behalf of chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai (who previously worked for Verizon). For those of you who are not aware, I’ll let John Oliver explain it best (warning: obscenities do ensue).
In brief, should the FCC remove the Title II classification from ISPs (Internet Service Providers), ISPs would be able to adjust internet speeds based on what you, the consumer use the internet for. For example, if you prefer to stream your favorite shows through Netflix rather than Hulu, and your ISP is Comcast, you may find that Netlix drags and doesn’t load at a viewable speed, while Hulu is lightening fast. Why would this be? Because Hulu is owned by NBC which is owned by Comcast. Your ISP would be able to inhibit you from surfing the web outside of what benefits that ISP. Similarly, if you’re a gamer, an ISP could slow your internet connection and then charge you more so you can play World of Warcraft.
“Dan, isn’t being concerned with your internet speed kind of a first-world gripe?” Fair enough. And my examples certainly pertain to leisure and luxury. But should ISPs no longer fall under Title II, what is to stop ISPs from charging outlandish prices to low income neighborhoods or regions, effectively stifling access to information and knowledge in those areas? Those in economically depressed areas such as rural Appalachia or inner city Philadelphia could be hindered from resources they’d otherwise have access to. ISPs would have to the power to prevent networks and online communities from developing. Imagine if Verizon effectively killed social networks and online communities like Facebook and Reddit because they refused to be bought out by the ISP.
I can’t say this enough. We should be wary of any thing that potentially prohibits the general populace from accessing information. Watch for those policies that would preserve ignorance among certain demographics.
It has been argued by those in favor of these rollbacks that the removal of Title II classification would stimulation competition among ISPs in the “free market” fashion. In light of this, I have an experiment for you: Call an ISP that is other than the one you currently have and ask for quotes to service you area. Give them your address and what not. I suspect you will find that this other ISP does not service your address. Why? Because often times, regions and neighborhoods only have one or two ISPs. Verizon and Comcast rarely service the same city block. Where is the alleged “free market” when where you chose to live effectively selects your ISP and that ISP has no reason to offer competitive rates?
If you use the internet, and here you are reading my online blog, you should research net neutrality. I’ve added some links to help you all out.