You are probably reading this blog on your phone or tablet, but what if someone took that ability, or right away from you? Or decided what you could or should be able to access on line? Things will be changing very soon and if things continue in their current direction it won’t be for the better.
Whenever the phrase Big Brother is used, many immediately think about the dystopian novel 1984. Yet, others think about the inner workings of society and the evictions and alliances of reality TV. When it comes to internet access, both are accurate descriptions of the possibilities coming to fruition; as back room alliances are created daily and decisions are being made as to what should be allowed on the internet and how it “should” be distributed and this will alter the direction of the internet for decades to come. Sadly, this is not a TV show, this is reality and everyone’s ability to access the internet without restriction is at stake. At this very moment, due to the FCC withdraw of Title 2 protection, large corporations are now vying for control of the internet. Instead of what was designed to be a free flow of information, it may soon become Pay to Play, or even worse: dictated censorship. This is not as simple an issue as many claim, as the extensive effects of these changes are conveniently hidden within the ambiguity of their initial purpose, therefore impact will not be felt until it is far too late to reverse. And what makes this situation even more unnerving is how net-neutrality positions have instigated a clash of Titans, as major corporations and even conglomerates battle against one another to obtain, or retain position, while the only true eventual loser will be the public: especially the less affluent. Surprisingly, our government can prevent this all from happening. Yet, if legislation is enacted without objectivity, it may inevitably create an even more dangerous scenario, inducing serious future censorship complications and drawing us that much closer to a dystopian culture.
The net-neutrality issue is about power and position: content is value and those who control access, control the power. For many, it is hard to know who is right since everyone is arguing for their own interests and no one is speaking for the consumer. Facebook and Google want net-neutrality to continue since conglomerates, such as Comcast and Verizon will eventually redirect customers toward their own products and partnerships (via monopolies) by using marketing techniques and financial incentives.
How would you like someone telling you Instagram is no longer part of your WIFI package and if they even allowed that application you will need to upgrade to another bundle? The cable conglomerates claim it will not happen, but think about many recent cable channels were removed because they refused to succumb to cable company demands. In Boston, we lost a channel which began when there were only eight channels available, so anything is possible when greed is privatized and monetized. Google recently spent millions trying to avoid this expected internet dictatorship by installing fiber in many major cities, claiming it was for speed: they just had great insight. Eventually, they changed direction and most assume it was because Google realized it is only a matter of time before the internet became wireless and greater speeds are currently unneeded. Still, the enormous financial expenditure of Google clearly shows how much they believed the change from neutrality will negatively affect information flow, choice, control and their bottom line, of course. And as for who will dictate internet content from those new powerful wireless hot spots? Obviously, the same companies who typically oppose net-neutrality. But can we honestly trust companies who have used deceptive invoicing practices for decades, like the cable and phone companies; as they will easily be able to hide how they limit data, or dictate data direction? Yet again, can we instead side with companies who just sold, misused, or lost most of our data; like Facebook and others? This is not a great choice. Eventually, we may even be paying bundle fees just to access our stolen content, since unbeknownst to the public opposing companies came to a backroom agreement for their mutual gain, leaving the public wondering what happened?
Removing regulations and opening markets does sound quite appealing to some and many argue this will be the very thing which will allow ISP alternatives to expand and for free enterprise to finally exist within the industry, but that may come at a great price and risk. Still, the overall question then is why can’t we have both? Why can’t we request softer regulations which allows for expansion of services, yet still prevent companies from dictating and controlling content? That is why new legislation is crucial and must be demanded since it is no longer a choice to be on the internet, it is a necessity. Families without internet access suffer greatly. The internet offers major advantages to learning and future job performance and without access, there is no equality. The internet is now becoming as important as once was the ability to read and access books. This is a fact.
Umass Amherst/Isenberg school is considered among the top business colleges in the country, so it is expected many reading this blog will become major players within the business field and will work for companies on opposing sides of this argument. That is why business ethics should always supersede gain and why I believe everyone should solidify their ethical opinion on this subject before money and position taint judgement. In that way, many can reflect on this moment of unhampered thought and choose an ethically correct direction now. There is an enormous disparity of wealth in this country and the separation of rich and poor continues to grow. This is why nothing should financially suppress people from receiving the internet. As a matter of fact, the internet should be publicly broadcasted throughout major cities in this country via wireless signal already. Many cities claimed they were going to offer free broadband, but that was until either cable lobbyist intervened, or fear of losing services forced the local government’s hand. Still, why can’t the internet be run like the public utility as it becomes wireless? At that point there will be minimal cost and it can be divided like a utility, so there no longer is an excuse.
There is one final and crucial reason why information being controlled by a few large corporations is quite dangerous. Although, it is often important to be politically correct and corporations have shown they can help society by taking stands for equality, when a minority group controls access of information it can be easily manipulated, even when it is altered for seemingly altruistic purposes and this reaction can cause serious negative ramifications. Eventually, based on the Internet’s direction when companies who control the information are forced to bear responsibility for content by allowing content to pass through their channels which caused injury or harm, regardless of past precedence and then adding pressure from religious, or political parties who can dramatically impact their bottom line, or even their ability to exist, their only response will be called forced censorship for the good of public interest…
… And that’s when our society begins to unravel.