F.C.C. On Track To Ruin Last Truly Democratic Institution: The Internet (April 24, 2014)


The best thing about the Internet is that it’s a completely unmitigated free-for-all. People can literally say or do anything. That’s also the worst feature of the World Wide Web (trolls, hate speech, misogyny, child pornography) but the relatively nascent life cycle of the Internet has trained us all to take the good with the bad. Almost to a person, we’ve agreed to abide by only one law: if you don’t want to see it, read it or hear it, then don’t. Click the next link. There’s quite literally something out there for everyone and almost anyone can leverage the tools of the Web to find success within their own particular niche, no matter how singular it might appear to one’s offline community. The Internet – the greatest of equalizers.

Enjoy it while you can.

According to multiple published reports, the Federal Communications Commission has offered a proposed set of rules that would effectively end net neutrality as we know it.

Edward Wyatt of The New York Times reports “The proposal comes three months after a federal appeals court struck down, for the second time, agency rules intended to guarantee a free and open Internet.”

The writer goes on to point out the patently obvious: in the decision to allow large media companies with deep pockets to purchase rides in the “fast lanes” of Internet service providers, the last egalitarian, populist institution we share as a human species is endangered. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Equal opportunity denied to the 99 percent (or even in more charitable Romney-like estimations, 47 percent) by the superrich.

Wyatt writes, “The rules could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.” Yes. And there’s also this:

“Consumer groups immediately attacked the proposal, saying that not only would costs rise, but that big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.”

But those arguments are pretty much still looking at the issue through the corporate lens. I’m more inclined to side with the proletariat view of Todd O’Boyle, Program Director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, who warned “If it goes forward, this capitulation will represent Washington at its worst…Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship — corporate or governmental.”

There is still time for the F.C.C. to turn away from the proposed changes. A final vote is scheduled for the end of the year. Let there be a huge public backlash that renders defeat unavoidable. Moreover, it’s got to come from the ground. Because this isn’t like Arizona’s recently vetoed bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay Americans based upon “religious beliefs.” We can’t rightly expect corporate interests to intervene on this one. No threat of lost customers here. Just another opportunity to squeeze out competition.

We’re going to have to do this on our own, the way the tools and power of the Internet have famously inspired rebellion the world over: Occupy Wall Street, Tahrir Square, Julian Assange. Right or wrong, individuals and groups have made their arguments heard and shared using the Internet. It seems fitting we do the same here, while we still can.

Visit the F.C.C. website when the proposed rules are released for public comment on May 15, and for goodness sake, comment. I may be preaching to the converted when it comes to PoliticusUSA readers, but if there is any occasion (and obviously I believe there are many more) worth making our voices heard, this it. This kind of garbage flies because we are a listless and complacent electorate, but we can put a stop to that anytime.

We owe it to the Internet. The glorious, messy, crude, amateur, uniting, creative and wonderful universe – for all to share equally.


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