Sinking of the Titanic - Mom’s Conception
The Losses of Age

Net Neutrality and Elders

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


". . . at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you is its longing . . ."
(Genesis 4:7)

I replace the word "sin" with "greed" and so understand most calamities such as this one and others we discuss at TGB.

(P.S. I am not promoting religion or belief systems but sharing poetry.)

Ronni, thanks for your plain-language explanation about what's at stake. In a related matter, it appears that AARP will be focusing increased attention on digital inclusion among older Americans, according to a Washington Post story this morning announcing Jo Ann Jenkins as AARP's new CEO starting in September. Jenkins joined AARP in 2010 after 15 years at the Library of Congress. In an interview with the Post, Jenkins referred to boosting older adults’ digital skills: "For example, Jenkins said, some members have never applied for jobs online or are not adept at using a tablet or cellphone. The organization recently announced it would begin offering hands-on education sessions through a program called AARP TEK to educate older Americans on using digital devices and platforms. Jenkins intends to widely expand the program in 2015."

I just signed the petition at Daily Kos and am up in arms over this matter. As you say, the NYT coverage is very good and we all should be concerned. Thank heaven there is an outcry and thank you, Ronni. for alerting your readers.

Signed it and will post the link on my facebk.

When there is concentration (and a price tag) of communication by those who give and we who receive, it could be one of the worst decisions of this century and next to impossible to change. The last thing we all need is to be fed only by what and how the corporations choose.

I lament any loss of personal, equal internet access individually. I fear money and power managing the major media outlet. Everyone spread the word, sign petitions, let the FCC know that we're in on this decision.

Makes me wonder what China's influence on internet access will be down the road.

I signed the petition some days ago and I believe the Daily Kos isn't the only petition to save Net Neutrality circulating the Internet. I know I have signed several others as well, but my short term memory fails me and I can't remember which representative has one going.

Like Darlene, I sign any petition that threatens the openness of the internet. (This one accepts Canadian postal codes too BTW.) Like most things that threaten our freedom, it's all about the money!!

Ronnie, you picked the right day to run this blog. It is reported that ATT is in talks to buy Direct TV for $50 billion. This might make ATT the worlds largest communications company in the world. The monopolistic implications if this is allowed to proceed is mind boggling. On a different note, we here at the ALF are confronted by a firewall built in to our WiFi system. We are kept from accessing any sites that are deemed inappropriate. This includes anything that has to do with, you guessed it, sex. The last time I looked there was nobody living here that was not old enough not to know about sex. We have tried to get this firewall lifted with no luck because some of the great minds of the 18th century run this place.

Remember when antitrust, to regulate concentration of businesses, was a big deal? And one of the major ones was radio, tv & newspapers(not sure of last one)? Another was - football ownership! Are today's issues due to government collusion with business or did business find a way around antitrust?

Ohh, what webs we weave....

Since the FCC says it "may" issue proposed regulations on May 15, there may be another opportunity for the public to comment on net neutrality.

Issuing proposed regulations would start a 90-day comment period. Then the FCC would need to review and address the comments and to change the proposed regulations accordingly--presumably in response to the comments.

We need to follow this process closely and participate in it.

Will the greedy 0.01% ever have enough? How about the monopolistic cable companies that already charge plenty for internet access? Of course not! They don't know the meaning of "enough". I've already signed one petition and will certainly sign this one. Greed cannot be allowed to own the internet any more than it already does.

Thanks for the post. I signed the petition and posted a link on fb.

Have signed several petitions and written a couple of letters to Tom Hall (thanks to janinsanfran!). Mr. Hall has responded with assurances that he wants to protect net neutrality, but the manner in which he replied hints at another agenda.

We in the U.S. have the slowest internet access in the world, especially in small towns and rural areas. Only dial-up is available in some places.

As always "follow the money" -- and if there is money to be made, someone out there is trying to figure out a way to capture it, no matter the consequences to the rest of us.

It has already been proven that our legislators have been bought and paid for by large corporations, why should this be any different? A.T.&T. was split many years ago because they had a monopoly on telephone service -- well, they've built it back up again.

I'll do all I can to get the word out, but I'm beginning to think that a revolution is going to be necessary to turn this country around. It probably won't happen in our lives, but it WILL happen.

The Wu article is excellent, Ronni. Thank you for including it.

I'm all for revolution. This country needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

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