If you have been reading this blog for more than a couple of weeks, you know that I believe in the internet for old people with my heart and soul, for all the reasons I harp on:
• It helps keep our brains active and healthy
• It is a means to learn new things
• It provides a social network of friends, new and old
• It keeps us connected to the world
• It entertains us
And it does all this even when some of us are no longer capable of getting out and about as easily as we once did.
So it is important to me – and should be to you – when our access to the internet is threatened.
You might have heard of net neutrality. The concept was named a dozen years ago by Tim Wu, now 41 and a law professor at Columbia University. At it's most basic, net neutrality means an open internet,
the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
And that is how the internet has been working in the United States from the beginning - you can get this little blog or any other as easily as any behemoth website. Now, however, that may be about to change.
In the U.S. the internet and access to it is regulated by Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The current commissioner, Tom Wheeler, has announced that new regulations will soon be forthcoming and the internet community is fighting back because
”...the F.C.C. has signaled its intention to grant cable and telephone companies the right to charge content companies like Netflix, Google, Yahoo or Facebook for speeding up transmissions to people’s homes,” explains The New York Times.
“And this is happening as the F.C.C. is considering whether to bless the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which could put a single company in control of the Internet pipes into 40 percent of American homes.”
Here is a well-done video that gives you all the information you need to understand all this:
Or, as Philip J. Weiser, dean of the University of Colorado Law School, put it:
“'It’s like FedEx,' he said. 'You pay a certain amount for overnight delivery and a certain amount for two-day delivery. You could end up with something like that for the Internet.'”
Netflix, Facebook, etc. can afford to pay Time Warner and Comcast the big bucks to make sure we can get their content quickly. I, however, cannot afford it.
Nor can entrepreneurs who are trying to fund their projects. Nor charities. Or community organizations. Or your grandkid who wants to show you his or her new puppy. Or political activists. Or most elders.
As The New York Times put it:
“The future of the Internet — which means the future of communications, culture, free speech and innovation — is up for grabs.”
The social and political harm of a pay-for-play internet is unmeasurable.
FCC Commissioner Wheeler may announce new regulations on Thursday. There are good people all over the internet protesting these potential changes and there is a petition for maintaining a “fair and open internet” at Daily Kos. Please go sign it.
If you want more information, the same New York Times story I linked to above has done a good job of covering the issue from several points of view.
At The New Yorker, Tim Wu himself offers a solution.
So I don't overwhelm anyone with too much information, just search “net neutrality” under the news silo and you'll get a lot of good stuff.
Please support an open internet. It is crucial to all people - old as well as young.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: At Least I Phoned