I remember when the World Wide Web began. No I was not part of Arpanet but I did write & edit copy for a web design company in Boston in 96 (did a ton of work on the first site for Zildjian). The web was wild and exciting and as a guy who already loved libraries I was astonished at the information and access that was there right at the beginning.
The digital tap is still a wonderful geyser. You can access everything from Bible commentary to esoteric books of ritual magic and every conceivable point of reference in between. The web is a major avenue of commerce of course but it’s also incredibly empowering for the little guy. Urban Librarians Unite could never have the reach and output that we have had without free and open access to the web. If we had to pay to put this in front of you right now then you would not be seeing it.
This is what is at stake as the FCC tries to kill net neutrality and allow the isps and big cable companies to set the policy. The web will go from a fascinating crazy open space that you can lose yourself in for days, where you can be who you want, see what you want, CREATE what you want to just another queue in our velvet rope society. If you can afford the ticket you will still be able to play. If you are big you can throw some sway and get to the front of the line every time, if you are a small org or tiny company then you are stuck hanging out in the back. If you want access to the latest popular consumer culture you’ll be set but cable companies will get to decide what you don’t see and they will do so with the direction of your community’s self-appointed moral guardians. Profit shall be the sole and only measure of worth and usage. If you can’t pay up and pay well then you are out of the game.
Opponents of net neutrality say that it is unfair to businesses (which remain very profitable BTW), and that ultimately it is not government’s place to interfere in the open market. These arguments are frankly utter and complete bullshit.
The whole “America works best in a free and open market” trope has blown up in our faces time and time again. When you take off regulations and consumer protections the big guys get bigger, the little guys go under, and the consumer loses out because there is no competition left. Look around your community and see how many independent pharmacies there are. We all know what happens to Mom and Pop shops when Walmart rolls into town.
It’s ridiculous to see the internet as non-essential in America in the 21st century. It’s how we buy goods, watch TV, listen to music, and connect with family and friends. It pervades every part of America’s private and public lives which is EXACTLY why it is essential that it be maintained as a fair and neutral space with equitable access and pricing.
If we let it get away we will never get it back again.