Yesterday, the FCC ruled against net neutrality. What is net neutrality? The idea that the internet belongs to the public and should be available to anyone without preference to certain ideas or to users with more money.
What does this mean to you? Here’s an example: corporations with lots of money will be able to “fast track” their information so it travels across the network faster. That’s great if you’re dying to order something from Amazon. But it means that your grassroots campaign to protect shelter animals will be traveling on the slow road.
Corporations will also be able to block content from “their” networks. The example commonly given is that Comcast won’t allows clients using it as their Internet Service Provider to stream Netflix movies. Why? Because Comcast has a competing company that wants to stream your internet movies instead.
Don’t care about that? Fox News Corporation owns the National Geographic Channel. And Hulu (with GE). And My Space. Under the new regulations, Fox News Corporation could censor content that puts one of their properties (say, Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer) in a bad light.
The internet was developed by researchers using government grants. Taxpayers, not corporations, funded its founding and development. Unfortunately, it is no longer seen as a public property.
In the early days of television, the FCC protected it as vital to the national interest. Although TV programming was funded by corporations, television broadcasters were required to give a certain amount of time to public interest programming (for children, public access, the emergency broadcast system, political debates). In addition, they were (until the days of Bill Clinton) not allowed allowed to form monopolies. A company could not own more than a certain number of television and radio stations in one market. That way, diverse voices could broadcast in each area.
I feel let down. Corporate money continues to erode the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution (and friends in Europe, Canada, and Australia–it’s happening in your homes too).
It’s too late to win back net neutrality. That battle is now lost. Here’s what you can do:
- Be aware about media consolidation and how it affects you. Here’s a great site that shows you what companies own your favorite media outlets. It may be a little outdated but I think you’ll get a good idea of the trend.
- Read up on the FCC decision and what it means to you.
- Take a stand against increased corporate media mergers that consolidate the power in the hands of a few.
- Share what you learn on Facebook, in your blogs, to your friends.
- [Update: Support local over corporate. Visit a locally owned store instead of Walmart. Try a college radio station instead of one owned by a media conglomerate.]
I’m sorry that while I’ve been actively working to ensure net neutrality in other places, I never blogged about it here. Because whether you’re liberal or conservative, American, or European, a cat person or a dog person, this is a free speech issue that affects us all.