Concerning the recent ruling on net neutrality, there are a few things to take note of. First, the system we currently have in place has its flaws. It allows providers to unilaterally charge exorbitant prices and disguise them. That being said, I think paying a little bit more for our internet is an acceptable price for our freedom. The new rules announced by the Federal Communications Commission after being sued by Verizon would keep the high prices, but split Internet traffic into two lanes, a ‘fast lane’ and a ‘slow lane.’
In the fast lane, big companies will pay Internet Service Providers to have their content load quickly when accessed by users. In the slow lane, any website / content provider who doesn’t have the cash to fork out would have to put up with second-class service. Net neutrality, the principle of ISPs and governments treating all data on the Internet equally in streaming time and cost, is dead.
Not that dire, you think? Consider this: YouTube is a large company and both makes and spends a lot of money on the Internet. Now YouTube is where a lot of modern news services are moving to. A company like YouTube or another news site hosts a video of someone who is against lowering taxes on Time Warner and the other handful of service providers. Time Warner can come in and say “YouTube, we’re raising your prices for fast lane access because [insert scapegoat here].” The CEO of Time Warner can then inform, or imply to, the CEO of YouTube that they really did it because of the person broadcasting a message unfavorable to Time Warner. YouTube, being a private organization not subject to public or democratic control, can then simply remove said person. In turn YouTube can then ask Time Warner to keep a check on its competitors.
What has been set up here is a double reinforcement system of both negative and positive consequences. Positive mutual benefit if both parties play nice, negative if one or the other doesn’t. It puts in place a system whereby the powerful corporations now have control of the last cheap place to get your word out.
Enter money. Not only do Time Warner and the other handful of companies have total control of what is now on the Internet, but they are corporations. That means they’re in it for the money. Surprising concept, I know. But we also have vast amounts of money in private hands. Get where I’m going with this? Now not only can politicians spend unlimited money in politics directly, they can spend money to shut down anyone who dissents against the status quo. Hell, no one even has to know! Suppose we made giving a gift to your good buddy, the CEO of Time Warner, illegal. Cash is untraceable, and – oh, would you look at that? – , something got bumped and some numbers changed and – oh look – the bottom line is changed.
The noose is tightening. One by one the venues to fight back peacefully against the bourgeoisie are closing. They haven’t put this into full swing yet and they will likely take time to test the waters. But the mechanisms by which the total elimination of all of our freedoms and our democracy could be wiped out over night are in place. The airwaves can be shut down. Your vote can be set to one of a handful of pre-selected corporate spokesmen. If you speak out in public you can be thrown in jail. If you speak out in private you can be sent to Guantanamo, none of this with a trial. And if for some reason you think that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) didn’t give those powers to the ruling class, which they did, the only thing standing in the way is that the Enemy Expatriation Act hasn’t gotten out of committee yet.
What is this Enemy Expatriation Act? Anyone who is deemed a terrorist by the bill’s arbitrary definition can have their citizenship revoked immediately without trial, negating the only flimsy provision in the NDAA had to protect US citizens.
Rest in peace, online freedom. We hardly knew ye.
(Originally published in The Red Vine.)