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New Times / Shredder

The following article was posted on June 18th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 47

For porn!


If you’re looking for a witty, relevant assessment of the dangers of allowing corporate monopolies to overthrow net neutrality, put down this newspaper and go watch John Oliver’s Comcast takedown on YouTube. Honestly, I’m not even sure why you bothered picking up a newspaper in the first place. Print is so last century, or so you would have heard if you’d been watching your news on comedy shows like the rest of us.

Are you still reading? Fine. I’ll rant about net neutrality, but I refuse to be clever or charming. And I definitely won’t be British; my teeth aren’t healthy enough. Also, if you insist on reading this column instead of making the intellectual and responsible choice to get your news from the television, I expect you to do your part to help me help you help us by crashing the Federal Communications Commission’s website. I’ll explain that later. I would also like to point out that the whole “help we, you, us” bit is a lot funnier when said out loud.

Here’s how the Internet works:

OK, you called my bluff. I have no idea how the Internet works. I think they made a documentary called The Matrix that explains all that stuff. Something about 0s and 1s and trench coats.

What I do know is that, as it stands right now, there are few things more democratic than the Internet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using it to research your pretentious doctoral thesis about the boiling point of comparative literature under a Higgs Boson microscope or laughing your ass off at a video of a guy getting hit in the nuts while falling off a skateboard. On the Internet, we’re all equal—or at least are treated that way.

Essentially, that’s what net neutrality is and means. Nobody gets to decide what you can and cannot access or gets to try to charge you more for certain websites.

But why would we want an equal all-access pass when we could cram the Internet into a tiered system with faster and slower speeds and make certain websites de facto off-limits based on how much we’re paying? Don’t the communications monopolies—Comcast, Verizon, AT&T—need a friendly hand up (not to be confused with a handout) in the form of forcing Americans to become their customers by virtue of the fact that we don’t have any other choice? Would it really be so terrible allowing them to establish the terms under which you’re allowed access to information, porn, and cat photos? It’s true that while it was in negotiations with Netflix, Comcast flexed its monopoly-chiseled muscles by slowing Netflix streaming speeds until Netflix caved, acknowledging what the rest of us unwilling Comcast customers were forced to accept a long time ago: They’ve got us over a barrel, and, well, I won’t get graphic about what they’ve been doing to us, but if you’ve got HBO, you can probably find it there. And Verizon is doing much the same right now, screwing with Netflix streaming speeds as part of their “negotiations.”

It’s sort of terrifying when a company takes on an organization with 33 million subscribers and makes mincemeat out of them by choking their customers’ access. The worst part is, of course, that Comcast was so willing and eager to screw over its own customers, it was hurting the people who pay Comcast money just to access the Internet.

But what’s even more terrifying is that none of this might matter at all. It might not matter that Americans are unhappy with the cost and service provided by monopolies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. Because these companies are giving our policymakers an awful lot of money—what you might call lubrication of the conscience.

Now, in a free and democratic society in which we’re all equally important to our elected officials, it wouldn’t matter who has the most money. What would matter is what’s best, and fair, for the majority of Americans. But the hard an unpleasant truth of the matter is that we live in a country where the rights of a few very rich corporations to make vast sums of money trumps what the rest of us need and want.

And the biggest irony of all is that you’re all so busy watching porn and laughing at cat videos and streaming Orange is the New Black from Netflix that you can’t even be bothered to recognize that Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast have placed you squarely over that barrel and are now awaiting word from the Federal Communications Commission to commence those unspeakable acts you’ll probably recognize if you have HBO. When that day comes, and you’re paying more for the fast lane, or possibly still paying more for now-limited access to the Internet, you’re going to complain loudly and angrily about how you were never warned that this storm of giant corporation unmentionability was upon you, possibly never even connecting the new bills to that “net neutrality” idea the media was blathering on about. In fact, you will probably find a way to blame the media for your ignorance. But the truth is, they were talking—though they probably didn’t have the good sense to make their talk interesting—and you just couldn’t be bothered. Because Farmville.

Somehow the charming, witty and oh-so British comedian John Oliver managed to get through to a few of you, who subsequently crashed the FCC’s website by registering your complaints and concerns about abolishing net neutrality. Whether that’s enough for a government blinded by money to actually listen to the people it represents is tough to say.

But it can’t hurt to have a second go-around. As the self-proclaimed John Oliver of SLO County, I charge you to go forth and listen to what Oliver had to say. And once you’ve done that, head on over to FCC.GOV/COMMENTS and defend your right to equal and democratic access to the Internet, however ingloriously you use it. Do it for porn! Do it so you don’t have to go to the library for information! Do it because you’re sick of the good of a few corporations being placed ahead of the good of the people!

 

Shredder’s just a series of 0s and 1s and Twinkies. Send stories of what you told the FCC to shredder@newtimesslo.com.