Tuesday’s readings for Indy Media were incredibly intriguing. I always knew there was much debate surrounding the issue of net neutrality and such, but I never really realized the depth of the issue. Concerns with First Amendment rights are prominent in the debate and there are even some “monopolistic” issues that are arising.
The internet is a facilitator for business. It is marketing tool and a platform to grow and market a business. Today hundreds of thousands of people use the internet as a tool/resource to buy things, to find services, to get news and even to instruct themselves on how-to-do certain things. It is an amazing resource, its contents are endless and its availability is worldwide. 20 years ago no body would have expected the internet to have even been a reality, let alone a powerhouse in life. It is a necessity now a days, people depend on it for day to day existence and functioning.
It is a communication tool, just like the telephone, television and the radio are. As it always does, history repeats itself- obviously not in exact forms or identical situations, but situations so incredibly comparable to each other that we shouldn’t even run in to some of the issues we do. We should know who to handle that- but that’s another point completely. Just as telephone communication and services needed to eventually be regulated and maintained to ensure efficiency, just as the radio and its frequencies needed to be regulated- the internet needs regulation to ensure that both its users and its content producers have equal, fair, sufficient and efficient access.
Clearly, the regulation bandwagon hasn’t gotten rolling. Just in recent years has the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) begun enforcing and creating regulations surrounding net neutrality. Even so, the regulations tend to be incredibly vague and lacking. The ACLU released an article in 2010 heavily critiquing the FCC’s (then) recent passing of a “flawed net neutrality rule.” And I’d have to say for the most part, the article was spot-on with its criticism. Sure, the motive behind the rule is essential- it begins to address the assurance that the internet will be a harbor for competition and that fair access is a reality of its existence. But the FCC rule is like swiss-cheese-there are holes and gaps that make it a nearly failed attempt. The rule fails to include both kinds of internet access- wired & wireless- apparently in this instance the FCC found it only applicable to apply net neutrality regulation to wired services. I’m not quite sure where that makes sense??? It’s the internet isn’t it?? And whatever the access point be, it provides the same service & thus deserves the same protections and regulations. By disallowing equal regulation the internet becomes in danger of facilitating potential first amendment right violations. As noted in the ACLU article (mentioned above), if wireless service is not subject to such regulations of net neutrality that means they have much more freedom to control the content and the availability of the content to users and thus, control the order that users see search results and things like that.
This point pushes me to discuss something that doesn’t violate the constitution, but does pose a scary possibility. While reading these readings, all I was thinking about was a monopoly and antitrust laws. If companies with money and power can control exactly where their content shows up on a search or can control just how fast their content moves and loads, then they become like big industries. The control puts them at the top and the farther and farther they push to the top, the more control they gain and the more control they gain their ability to suppress competition grows exponentially, if that ability reaches a certain level smaller, lesser competitions in the same field die and continue to die. Eventually, you have an internet monopoly. Competition is squashed. And big business rules again- as we know from history, that never is a good thing.
Just like Sam Gustin discussed in “American Broadband Infrastructure: A National Embarrassment”- U.S officials are not paying enough attention to the internet and its functioning. As noted in the article, the internet is a vital economic tool and it has to be treated like one. There are policies for an endless number of things that fuel to the functioning of everyday American living- the internet is one of those things and needs to be treated like one.
If we’re not careful big companies, along with the help of the global powerhouse Google, will squash all the little competitors and internet service will become Carniege Oil. Yikes.