Fighting a fabricated war: Net Neutrality was already dead, and you have been aiding and abetting the murderers. 

written by Marc E. Check December 15, 2017


Fighting a fabricated war:

Net Neutrality was already dead, and you have been aiding and abetting the murderers. 

guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the number of friends and colleagues expressing their rage and dismay on Facebook and Twitter today, warning us of the impending digital Armageddon that lurks ahead. Net Neutrality has been repealed which means a variety of horrible impending events, right?  I really don’t think it does.  In fact, I don’t think we’re going to see much of a difference on the Internet whatsoever.  The FCC vote didn’t kill Net Neutrality, it merely invited a bunch of small companies to join a bunch of preexisting big companies in a fun game of kicking around the long-dead and decomposing corpse of Net Neutrality.  The response of the enraged mob is to blame “Trump’s FCC,” and while I think Trump and his entire administration is as loathsome and dishonest as every administration dating back to the dawn of the Regan administration (okay, maybe slightly more loathsome), they are latecomers to this game, largely uninformed and barely complicit.

You, my armchair-activist, Monday-morning quarterbacks and technophiles, are likely more complicit in the death of Net Neutrality than the FCC.  You heard me right. 

It started before the net even existed when we traded our public airtime and the evening news to corporations and profit.   It continued when each of us sat idly by while every media outlet in the U.S. was absorbed into conglomerates and then again when we stood patiently on the sidewalk for hours in line for that new iPhone.  It continues even now as you ironically take to Facebook to expound your rage towards the FCC, acting as if you had nothing to do with its death.

Shame on us all.

et me explain this using one of the many “how to explain Net Neutrality to simpletons/luddites/old people/young people/dumb people/the lobotomized” articles that have been so prevalent the last month.  This source happens to be one of the most cited from the pro-Net Neutrality camp.  It’s a recent blog from savetheinternet.com, a website “presented by Freepress.” They state that:

Without the Net Neutrality rules, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be able to call all the shots and decide which websites, content and applications succeed.

Sure.  It gives some power to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but far less power than is already bestowed to Apple, Google, Facebook and other technology giants.  At the end of the day ISPs want to make money, and what the public wants they will generally provide as they want people to use bandwidth.  These other tech giants that I mention are already deciding which websites, content and applications succeed by promoting paid content, and often doing so in a veiled manner.  Google search rankings are unapologetically pay-for-rank, and even “reviews” of companies and services can be bought to give consumers the illusion of customer satisfaction with a product or company.  Why are we afraid that the ISPs are going to “call the shots” when we’ve already willingly and fawningly let companies like Apple, Google and Facebook call the shots and thanked them repeatedly with our hard-earned dollars for doing so?

The blog goes on to state the following:

It’s thanks to Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive online. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs will exploit their gatekeeper position and destroy the internet’s fair and level playing field.

Let’s remember that the Net Neutrality rules were adopted in 2015.  Under this premise small businesses and entrepreneurs have apparently only thrived online over the last two years, because prior to that, the evil ISPs were likely exploiting their gatekeeper positions, right?  That’s simply not true, or if it is true it is in rare and isolated cases.  There’s no indication that ISPs as businesses would not want online businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive, because when they do, the ISP does. 

The deeper problem with this claim is the premise that the internet has a “fair and level playing field” allowing businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive prior to the FCC vote.  The internet, regardless of Net Neutrality, most certainly does not offer a fair and level playing field when so many advantages from search engine rankings to ad placement and app reviews are being controlled by Google, Facebook, and Apple.  These are companies that have far more ubiquitous and intertwined services online that control the gating of content and placement of information to the consumer than the ISPs could ever wish for. There IS no fair and level playing field to return to.

Ironically the very next statement reads:

Without Net Neutrality, the next Google or Facebook will never get off the ground.

Considering Google and Facebook have done far more to gate, weight, and censor content presented to the consumer than the ISPs have ever even had the capability to do, one might argue for the lesser of all evils, which means abolishing Net Neutrality. 

 

Nobody is looking out for the consumer.  Proponents of Net Neutrality aren’t lobbying for the few bucks you might save, they are lobbying for the billions they would save in the aggregate.

 

s I read the Freepress blog I wondered why they were so adamantly insisting these unsubstantiated statements as fact.  Could Save the Internet possibly be funded or backed by entities such as Google or Facebook, using these uber-freedom and generic grassroots brands to wage war against lightweight, but nonetheless competitors?  Laughing at my conspiracy-theorist self I confidently browsed to Wikipedia for the advocacy group Freepress page to find the following shocker:

“Free Press leads the Save the Internet coalition, which supports Net Neutrality. The Coalition consists of individuals, nonprofits, and companies, ranging from advocacy groups to consumer groups to Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Microsoft.”

Strangely the full list of members is hard to find.  This partial list I found reveals a list of members that I’m sure are in it for the right reasons, but the big companies like Google and Amazon, who I know are involved through other casual references, are absent from the list.  The “full list of coalition members ” link at the bottom of the pdf linked above leads to a dead end, and subsequent searching on their website reveals no full member list.  That makes me, and it should make you, suspicious.

This brings me to the next point.  While savetheinternet.com seems like a grassroots coalition of concerned net users and “little guys” watching out for our best interests, it is actually a coalition that consists of giants like Google who are currently and actively doing the exact same behaviors and business practices that the coalition warns us about with the ISPs.

The other common accusation that gets the American consumers screaming about the need for Net Neutrality is the overplayed and overhyped accusation that ISPs will start charging the consumer on an increased, per-bandwidth basis.  Is this possible?  Sure it is, however in the years leading up to Net Neutrality in 2015 it didn’t happen and there’s no indication it would now.  The propaganda machine from Freemedia and their big-business collaborators want you to believe it will because they want Net Neutrality in place so the ISPs can’t appropriately charge huge-bandwidth service purveyors like Facebook and Google to provide their services which dwarf most other internet traffic bandwidth needs. The point of this matter is nobody is looking out for the consumer.  Proponents of Net Neutrality aren’t lobbying for the few bucks you might save, they are lobbying for the billions they would save in the aggregate.

ome are asking what prohibits the ISPs from gouging customers once exempt from the protective measures of Net Neutrality.  The answer is simple, and the same one that existed in 2014 and the decade before: competition.  If you ask me, many sectors like health care and energy should be more strictly regulated to prohibit gouging of customers, but historically ISPs, in a desire to compete in a free market, have regulated themselves, and average home bandwidth availability has altogether become cheaper per Megabit.  If an ISP steps up their price, there will be another waiting in the wings to offer the customers a better deal, and that’s why I don’t think we need to worry.  Realistically, if ISPs wanted to jack consumer prices across the board there are plenty of ways to do this even with Net Neutrality in place.

 

Americans have hit a new low when it comes to sourcing our information and validating it. 

 

Americans have hit a new low when it comes to sourcing our information and validating it.  We not only allowed, we actually encouraged every news media outlet from coast to coast in this country to thrive on sensationalism, groupthink and catering to our existing biases. 

How can we possibly fight for unfettered and uncensored access to information when real information is no longer available, compromised and watered down by our own lethargic desire for the simple to understand, quick to read, repeatable sound bites we have come to call “news,” or buried so deep in search rankings, obscured by the bright, flashy, branded fake news we so eagerly ingest and share on Facebook?

You’ve been had again, my fellow Americans. 

You thought you were standing for something, supporting Net Neutrality and rallying your friends and colleagues to call their congressmen.  You thought you were protecting our freedoms and our equality from those big, nefarious ISPs who will surely censor and limit our flow of information. 

ll the while, as it plays out so many times in this country, you were just a willing and confused pawn being used to protect the interests of one set of huge businesses by thinking you were protecting all of us from another, (what turns out to be) smaller, and less powerful set of businesses.

The Internet doesn’t need to be saved from data throttling because the Internet is already being throttled by these large companies through search engines and other technologies.

There’s no censorship to protect us from. The Internet is already largely censored by these large companies as they decide what products and ads to expose you to, or not expose you to, which results appear at the top of searches and which not, and what results are tailored in searches based on their subjective definition of “acceptable.”

There is no “fairness” or “even ground” to protect. These large companies already decide what you see and more importantly what you see first and often.

How did we let this happen?  How do we so easily become pawns, pushed around so willingly to the benefit of the rich and powerful companies in America?  Of greater wonder, how are they so easily able to flip the script on us, riling us to raise torches and axes against companies that only have the potential to do a mere fraction of the harm they have already done to Net Neutrality?

Because we’re lazy…

Super-fucking lazy. 

So lazy we can’t take a few minutes to think independently and follow the money back to the sources that might be responsible for the misinformation.

It’s also because we’re hopelessly polarized and politicized.

 

large companies already decide what you see and more importantly what you see first and often.

 

We blame and make villains out of the FCC (who I have no love for, by the way) because they’re incumbents and we love to politicize non-political issues.  This is a problem started by rich corporations long before we had even a hope of Net Neutrality, but we only get “involved” when information is spoon fed to us in easy-to-digest bites and we can draw the tired old lines of conservative and liberal around it. 

Let me be clear: I am not for the repeal of Net Neutrality, nor do I think the FCC had the people’s best interest in mind when making their decision.  I simply concluded after a small amount of research that the Net Neutrality issue is a manufactured one.  It is meant to politicize and mobilize us under the auspice of being freedom-protectors when what we are really doing is protecting the interests of the biggest companies in modern America, who happen to be the ones who murdered Net Neutrality before this debate even started.  By supporting their products and services we were, and continue to be complicit in, the murder of Net Neutrality. 

Where were all these voices of rage when Facebook, Apple, and Google started employing the same internet tactics we are so incredibly afraid the ISPs might do in the future with their new-found power?   I’m guessing we were probably playing Farmville, watching internet porn, and standing in line for our new iPhones. Because in addition to being lazy and easily polarized we are also very easily placated.

We heroize Apple, Facebook, and Google because they give us something tangible to enjoy and bide our time.  They bestow on us shiny objects and pleasant distractions.  ISPs by contrast charge us each month for something that is real, but intangible, and Americans like stuff, stuff they can hold and show off to the neighbors and use as status symbols.  Even Facebook provides an interface and platform that is visible and usable and personalized, making it digitally tangible in our eyes.

he big companies, the ones whose products you use every day and idolize – they murdered Net Neutrality, and you helped them, or at the very least turned a blind eye to it. 

So while you’re calling for the heads of current FCC commission members and screaming that they sold us out to big business, realize you’re probably screaming it on Facebook, and linking to “news” found via Google search, from your iPhone.  Yes, that’s blood on your hands.

…and please stop telling me we must “save” net neutrality, because that’s trying to save a soul that’s long been sold.

 

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