Verizon’s Attack on Internet Freedom

 

If you haven’t heard about it already, Verizon is taking the FCC to court to challenge its Open Internet Order, which stops Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against online content. If Verizon wins, they would violate the long-standing principle of Net Neutrality, and you’d be worse off for it.

What’s Verizon Trying To Do Again, And Why?

I guess Verizon isn’t happy with their $30 billion in revenues, so they wanted another way to make money. Verizon wants to charge website publishers money in exchange for letting users access their sites. By exploiting their status as an Internet service provider (a middleman), they want to control your access to information.

What Does That Mean For Me?

Let’s say you watch “Democracy Now,” a great outlet for citizen journalism. And let’s say you’ve also subscribed to Verizon for your Internet. And then let’s say that DN decides to air an episode about how Verizon wants to violate Net Neutrality (which they did). Well, in the world Verizon wants to create, you wouldn’t be able to see Democracy Now, or that particular episode, online anymore. Unless, of course, Democracy Now, which makes just $2 million a year, decides to pay them off…and promise never to air such an incendiary episode.

Why Is This Unacceptable and Ridiculous?

The Internet has been a free marketplace of ideas, one that promoted the growth of a number of independent blogs with independent thought, like this one. There have been respected critics, like Robert McChesney, who argue that the Internet isn’t as democratic as some portray it. Indeed, as Edward Snowden revealed, large tech companies like Google and Facebook are providing the government your information. But even if the government could see what sites you were going on, they couldn’t stop you from going on them in the first place; Verizon’s case is an unprecedented attack on Internet freedom.

What Will the Internet Become?

The Internet risks becoming like TV news, largely concentrated and controlled by the rich. Just 6 corporations control 90% of our media. Long ago, Noam Chomsky came out with the “propaganda model,” detailing why large media corporations have incentives to provide a narrow spectrum of views, and how it affected mainstream media coverage of the Vietnam War. We saw it again, 30 years later, when MSNBC, a “liberal” network fired its top-rated talk show host for opposing the Iraq War. In sheer coincidence, Microsoft and GE, the two owners of MSNBC at the time, happened to be military contractors profiting off the war.

Why Shouldn’t Verizon Be Allowed to Do This?

Verizon claims that they have a First Amendment right to “edit” the online content they provide. But they’re missing one crucial point. The government largely funded the research behind the Internet, and then granted monopoly rights to Internet service providers like Verizon. Because of the concentration of ISP’s, 96% of households in America can only choose between 0,1, and 2 ISP’s. The result is that we’re 26th in Internet speed and we pay 4-5 times more for it.

They are profiting off enormous subsidies from the people, and what do we get from it? Higher prices, lower quality, and now they can choke off our access to websites that don’t pay their fee? They’ve bought out our rotting democracy, turning it from one-person-one-vote to one-dollar-one-vote. Now, they want to turn the Internet into a similar system, where only the rich have the means to get their message out. Thomas Jefferson said, “The basis of our government being the people…our first object should therefore be, to leave open…all the avenues of truth.” Let’s stop the Internet from becoming a platform for corporate propaganda.

Author: Edwin Jain

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