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Internet impartiality!

Dec 18,2017 - Last updated at Dec 18,2017

According to the cliché, "when the US sneezes the world catches a cold".  Originally, this was said about the stock market, but it applies equally to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote on December 14 which repealed the 2015 net neutrality regulations.  

Net neutrality was the principle that prohibited Internet service providers (ISPs) from speeding up, slowing down blocking, or imposing preferential charges on lawful content, applications or websites.  

This seems to be a purely domestic American issue; so why should it affect the rest of us?  Because the US is the industry leader.  The Internet infrastructure is such that 70 per cent of global internet traffic goes through northern Virginia.  

But the internet is not anybody’s domestic issue; it has reshaped the way the world gets information, news and entertainment and the way we conduct business; and it is expected to continue doing so in the foreseeable future. It is a vital global resource like the air we breathe.  No one has the right to pollute it.

The Internet was the great equaliser and the ally of the little person exactly because ISPs were obliged to offer equal access to all lawful web content.  Without net neutrality it may become the domain of the rich and powerful.

In e-business, for instance, startups and small businesses fear the prospect of paid prioritisation, which means creating an Internet fast lane for companies and consumers who pay high premiums, leaving the rest to fall by the wayside.  This may be disastrous for startups and small enterprises. 

But a more serious concern is the effect on freedom of expression and the right to know.  The Internet empowered people who were marginalised, ignored, or unfairly represented by the mainstream media by enabling them to tell their own story and to organise to seek justice.

Similarly, whistle blowers were able to expose the lies, deceit and financial wrongdoing of the rich and powerful because ISPs were not allowed to block their messages or websites.  Without net neutrality, companies will be able to block content with which they or their financiers disagree, or which they find inconvenient. 

According to Franklin Roosevelt, that in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, a group, or any controlling private
power.

Predictably, the justification given for revoking net neutrality is the specious argument that unregulated business yields innovation and prosperity.  This blind faith in market forces, or Adam Smith’s "invisible hand" ignores the fact that all the good principles which govern our lives, such as minimum pay, equal opportunities, consumer protection, and protecting the environment came as a result of government regulation not corporate initiatives.  

Corporations lobbied for years to have net neutrality annulled because it gets in the way of their profits.  Corporations, and cancer cells, seek growth for the sake of growth.  Their credo seems to say that if you catch a fish, you can sell it to a hungry man.  If you teach him to fish, you ruin a perfectly good business opportunity. 

 

 

alikassay@ace-house.com

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