Thursday, September 21, 2006

Life After Net Neutrality

In his article Replaced by a Chimp: Life After Net Neutrality, in The Nation online edition this week, Jeffrey Chester argues that, if Network Neutrality protections are not included in Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens’ telecom bill, which may yet be put to a vote by the senate this year, not only will the public interest of equal access to information, goods and services be undermined, but the network will become little more than another conduit for mainstream, low-brow “infotainment.”

The global media landscape has become fragmented at the same time that media power, that is the power of media outlets, has become consolidated. In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90% of the media. Today it's 10 companies. That equal access to the data housed and shared on the Internet is at risk directly threatens the democratic value of the World Wide Web. But by allowing corporate interests to control that access, through tiered pricing, we further erode the principles of equal access to information for all. Chester writes, “The Stevens bill not only proposes to scuttle network neutrality rules but also undermines key policies designed to insure community influence over how broadband networks serve the public interest . . .” Not surprisingly, the Bush administration and much of the GOP are arguing for less government control, not more. But if the services of telecom companies aren’t regulated, it’s likely that the greater proportion of information and messages crisscrossing the network would do what autocratic government media do: support the administration’s goals, which these days lean toward suppression of information rather than disseminating it. The telecom companies are spending piles of money, mostly heaped on those in the ruling party, to defeat Net Neutrality. This point is clearly stated in the article: “Stevens's talking points are actually being scripted--and paid for--by phone industry lobbyists.” What do the telecoms have to gain? One can surmise it would be mountains of money. And what would the ruling party gain from telecoms having more control over levels of access? For the administration, it’s a consistent message, which seems to include the persistent admonition not to change our way of life, to keep everything status quo. The status quo doesn’t appear to include protecting the current rights and protections afforded by the constitution, no, it seems to mean preserving the right of comfortable complacency. Remember, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we were encouraged to go back to our daily lives, get back to the mall. “Such dumbing-down of broadband is more likely in the absence of network neutrality rules. Expect media conglomerates and advertisers to flood our broadband networks with chimps selling beer and ketchup-colored clowns pushing fast food.” To this end, global mass media is more efficient than local, community-produced media. And it’s no coincidence that the telecoms lobbying for the authority to set their own usage fees are the same cabal that supplied the administration’s security agency with the phone and email records of their customers earlier this year.

The representatives who are reaping the cash bonuses are hardly of one mind (or even one party). Republicans may not all have the same motivations as the administration, but they are acting from the same playbook: they want to continue as the ruling party. “The GOP--including the White House--is still pushing hard to kill network neutrality. For example, at a hearing last week before Stevens's committee on his renomination for another term, FCC chair Kevin Martin came out in defense of the big cable and phone companies. The FCC chair said he thought it was fine for Verizon and others to begin charging extra fees to those content providers that want to be placed on faster Internet lanes.”

It’s clear that at least one outcome of media consolidation is global, social hegemony, assurance of complicity of the public at large in the objective of the ruling class. The message that society receives from the Power’s That Be comes in many forms: news, advertisement, “infotainment,” etc, and the media corporatocracy controls most outlets. It’s a tragedy that the Internet, perhaps the last public commons, may be incorporated into that entity (no pun intended). Hugo Chavez described what many believe is the sinister objective at the UN on Wednesday: “The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.”


Amaha said...

Hasn't the Pentagon stated publicly that it wants to end the Internet as we know it? Only War Profiteers and their minion media companies will be able to control the information we receive... "Ignorance is Bliss," they all agree.

I have tirelessly tried to awaken those on my list, but I think the issue is tooo complicated or maybe just toooo much work to even think about. Won't it be sad a few years from now when we hear people complaining, "I can't believe my Internet bill was $180.00 this month!"

You and I will be left wondering what happened to Amy Goodman after they muscled her off the air? and the Nation will be found only at out of the way bookstores that cater to the underground.

Amaha said...

I'm going to go dust off my dancing shoes for VICTORY is close at hand... however, knowing how these guys operate, I'm sure this issue will continue to haunt us... like 'Conceal and Carry' or THE NEW stadium, they won't let it go until they get what they want... Maybe I should wait to dust off my dancing shoes!