The Murder of the Free Internet, Save Net Neutrality

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Artist Print: “Atoms in Symbiosis” by Craig O’Brien.

Words by Erik Sandberg.

In 1994, my stepfather had a massive heart attack. My family had no way or means of communicating the emergency that was unfolding because we didn’t have, and actually — just couldn’t afford a telephone. A neighbour was summoned, an off-duty nurse as it happened, and an ambulance was called; CPR performed. He was dead. Long dead. Having a landline then was still considered a bonus.

Not long after, the local council fitted us with a phone. Health and safety, I guess. But it was a payphone — yes a payphone, you know the ones you slot coins into and it runs down really fast and even if you don’t use up all the money you don’t get any change back. It was a real pain, but at least you could send a quick message out. If you called or wanted to send a message abroad the cost was just insane so it wasn’t worth the bother. We were just a notch above incognito. My Mother could phone her Mother.

The telecommunications company that locked us into this contract was BT (British Telecom), a company that still holds a large monopoly of the market in the UK today. Every month, we had to empty the deposits to pay for the bill and every month, somehow, the value of coins in the box never tallied with the monthly bill — it was just the worst set-up. I still loved the phone, though. I could phone family, friends, girlfriends (and their Father would answer on the other end and scare the shit out of me with his deep voice going: “HULLLO….?”) make plans and express opinions. Things we take for granted now.

In short: I loved that phone, but it was overpriced and it had a limited reach.

 

Screen Shot Via Tom Nikl

Screen Shot Via Tom Nikl

The reason I describe this analogy is because something similar, something so massively, contractually and ethically regressive in digital comms is happening in the U.S.

A powder keg so potent, that it’ll handicap the way this, the next and the generation(s) beyond interact and utilise the (relatively) free internet as we know it today: the blatant murder of Net Neutrality.

“So, the idea that Verizon — the proprietors of Yahoo — who provide internet to plenty of people in the U.S. would have an interest in boosting Yahoo’s value and user base. It really doesn’t seem far-fetched that they would monitor traffic, force customers to use Yahoo, and put up a pay wall for other search engines like Google.” — Tom Nikl

At the behest of Capitalist intuition. A gated, paywalled internet will be the reality of the repeal of Net Neutrality. A bonanza for ISPs AT&T, Verizon and many more as the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) look to rip the heart out of the platform that has served as the biggest, freest, most fundamental form of expression in modern history: the internet.

Startups will suffer. Hyperlocal content — the foundation of your community — will slow to snail pace as internet providers decide which sites you should be reading and which you should not. You may even have to pay for them. Envisage this nightmare: in the not so distant future you may depend on Facebook for everything: where you shop, what you eat, what you listen to and how you vote. The trouble is,  it is only Republicans that can stop Ajit Pai when the FCC vote on December 14.

 

People need to wake up to this. Protecting a free internet should be the daily theme for the people of our great cities across the globe but it’s not. We’re too busy with vitriol. Too busy being pawns to Trump’s Twitter account whilst tidying our Facebook notifications as we gear up to total, and utter Zuckerberg domination but, I guess — by then — he’ll be President and no-one will care as we’ll all look the same, talk the same and act the same. Proper Truman Show.

I asked Noam Chomsky his thoughts on how important a free, fair and egalitarian internet is to the future of democracy, he wrote ↓

"The internet was developed in the public sector with the intention of providing people with free access, not controlled by power systems, state or private. That concept, now called “Net Neutrality,” enables individuals to inquire and become informed, and to act effectively to construct a more free, just, and democratic society. 

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Noam Chomsky

"The Trump administration is now moving to undermine these goals by granting a few mega-corporations the right to provide privileged access to favored clients (those who can pay for it, mainly other corporations), leaving the rest with more limited access.

"The same steps will make it possible for the few controllers to determine the content of what is accessible.  The arguments offered to justify these measures are specious. Every effort should be made to protect this invaluable resource from this assault on freedom and democracy."

Tom Nikl and Noam Chomsky are just a couple of the estimable activists I reached out to on Net Neutrality. I've long admired the work of Birgitta Jónsdóttir, co-founder of The Pirate Party in Iceland. I was sad to hear of Birgitta leaving the Icelandic parliament, but excited to follow what she does next in politics.

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She told me ↓

"Net Neutrality is the basic principle that bans internet service providers giants from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. NN is a shield for freedom of expression and open networks, it is the basis for open internet. If we don’t stop it, the internet we know it, will no longer exist. There will be toll booths everywhere and slow lanes and total control by the corporate giants on who gets to ride the fast lane for a price they choose. 

"Some countries have tried to make Net Neutrality a constitutional right, and indeed it is, come to think of it. The USA government has a responsibility according to their own constitution to protect freedom of expression and show stewardship in regard to Internet Rights because so many of the companies who have deep impact on all our communications originate from there.

"So do we want to go down the same path as China, who has “forced” Apple to block 100’s of apps, and make the new norm, the ability to block for example facetime by a competitor or monitor all your personal traffic in order to control where you go, or do we want to keep the Internet as it is? I don’t know about you, but I believe we should not fix unbroken things."

Newsvoice is taking a stand in defence of Net Neutrality. Our mission is to provide an unbiased and more balanced perspective on the news today so that citizens can be properly informed; an already challenging task now and almost impossible without a free internet.