We Paid For This Mike

With the recent Federal Court ruling that says the FCC “doesn’t have the power to require Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally”, there is reason to be concerned about the future of the Internet as we know it.  Though I’m not as worried as some (and it bugs me when people set their hair on fire and demand that I do, as well), it doesn’t mean the concerns aren’t justified. The decision is based primarily on a legal technicality: specifically that the FCC didn’t label the Internet as a “common carrier” such as telephone or television service, and thus shouldn’t be treated in the same way. Allow me therefore to digress just for a moment to make a bigger point.

I dislike cable TV. I dislike it not because of lack of content, but because there’s too much. So much useless garbage on hundreds of channels and the few things that might appeal to me tend to be on channels you have to pay extra for. I’d rather have more choice as to what content I’d like to see instead of having so much of it rammed down my throat, especially since a lot of it I never have any intention of watching. I don’t want ten home shopping networks or sixteen religious channels or twelve channels showing the same reruns of the same shows over and over and over. And I’m not one of those who can just watch television for hours at a time: I like a few specific shows and that’s all that really interests me. I have a standard digital broadcast antenna and for the most part that’s good enough for me, everything else I can locate via the Internet in various ways. Streaming TV is here to stay, and for good or ill it’s affecting the way we watch TV.  The question is only how it will work in the future, and a lot of that depends on how this recent ruling is interpreted and acted upon by the ISP’s.

I don’t know whether we will lose “net neutrality” or not, but I assure you, if there is a serious attempt to turn the Internet into cable TV, I will disconnect it completely, and I hope everyone else does as well. The great thing about the net is that it gives us choice, there are people who want to take that choice away in the name of profit. And the only way to stop them is to let them know they won’t get a dime from us if they go through with it. Not that I’m confident we’ll have the balls to do it, but if we did, it would work.

Sounds like a bold claim from a spoiled person who wants stuff for free, but that’s just not true. I’d be much more willing to invest in cable TV if a) it more suited my needs and b) I could afford it to begin with. The hard truth that the ISP’s want us to disregard is that both computer technology and the Internet itself were created using taxpayer money via NASA and DARPA respectively. And the bulk of the money for the infrastructure likewise came from taxpayer money: subsidized funds to run the cable in cities and communities across the country.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we paid for this mike, and we’re fools if we let someone take it away from us.


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