April 26, 2010

Changes in the Internet That You Didn't Know Anything About

So this is the reason my computer is running slow??? The telecommunication companies recently achieved a big victory in court over the fight to control the Internet.

They can control the speed of my Internet!

They can control how I surf the web!

The price grid you see is not TV programming packages from Comcast or DirecTV, this my friends would be the websites you would be able to go to if telecommunications companies have their way.

That's right your ISP (Internet Service Provider) would have complete control over the Internet. "Hey, that $49.99 package sounds like a good deal on top of what I already pay to get on the Internet! I think I'll cancel my cable."

Most Americans have no idea what the implications are regarding the issues surrounding the control of the Internet. Minority owned media companies could possibly be locked out of the future wave of Internet broadband. In much the same way media ownership consolidation has changed the landscape of radio broadcasting.

Let's do some digging and get some background knowledge on "net neutrality". Which is central to a discussion about whether telecommunications companies or the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) should control the Internet.

On the PBS program Bill Moyers Journal FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps passionately discussed the role of media in the United States. It was one of the most salient arguments in favor of the FCC regulating the Internet. Two recent court rulings are troubling him. One rolled back restrictions on cross-media ownership. The other basically states that the FCC has little authority under current law over Internet service providers. Find out more about these and other media issues below.

But before watching the video, please consider the fact that about one third of the country does not have access to high speed broadband. You don't have to be technologically saavy to realize that the way we will primarily get information and entertainment through media is undoubtedly moving towards the Internet. This means that everyone should have access to the Internet.

The Internet is not a service like lawn care, dog grooming, or car washing that a company provides. The Internet is a fundamental change that affects the way that people manage their lives from day to day around the world. Much like cable TV was just a few years ago. It is a public entity that needs guidelines. If the FCC regulates phone, cable, broadcast TV and radio then it should set policy for the Internet.

This is a time and age when limiting the public's access to information and to varying opinions on political issues is a dangerous thing. Especially in a climate that suggest that "government" is a bad thing. We can only look to conservative talk radio as an example of the harmful effects of media consolidation.

Let's use an analogy that compares the public's Internet experience to highways and commuting to work. Unregulated Internet is akin to giving people the ability to get in their cars and travel in a HOV lane for a certain price based on the ability to pay. Have you wished you could get out of that traffic jam and get in that HOV lane? How much more productive could you be? Some would welcome that no doubt to cut down on their travel time and gas cost. Could you imagine that certain companies were given the opportunity to build "turnpikes" and charge whatever they like to access those lanes? Shouldn't those lanes be available to everyone regardless of cost or ability to pay? It's probably a good thing that we have laws; government that regulates HOV lanes and turnpikes. If you live in the Northeast you're probably saying what is an HOV lane? If you live down South or out West you're probably saying what's a turnpike? The point is let's keep the Internet a freeway.

Let's consider a statement made at the 2010 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Las Vegas. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said during a morning breakfast chat that it was too depressing to really discuss the state of minority and female media ownership. She went on to say that the Internet provided an option for voices who can’t get on the air through radio and television. The viability of the Internet providing that option is greatly diminished if large telecommunication companies become the gatekeepers of the Internet. Commissioner Clyburn has made it her mission to ensure that Internet access is available to all Americans and to increase the ownership of minorities in media.

Part of the interview is here. For the full 23 minute interview go to PBS and the Bill Moyers Journal.

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