Opinion: Net neutrality and the dinosaur media
Free Press Opinion Columnist
TV comedian John Oliver unleashed a torrent of online commentary on the Federal Communications Commission’s website last week after he encouraged viewers to protest the agency’s proposed new “net neutrality” rules.
Net neutrality basically means a level playing field for all Internet providers and websites. But the major cable and telecom companies have been lobbying fiercely for a two-tiered Internet — the ability to charge some customers higher fees for faster transmission rates. Comcast alone has spent $18 million lobbying for premium “fast lanes.”
Unsurprisingly, the FCC’s chairman, John Wheeler, is a former industry lobbyist himself. He claims that his new rules would support net neutrality, but critics say his plan doesn’t match public statements.
Proponents of net neutrality defend it as an important component of the “open Internet” that doesn’t discriminate against content, and allows everyone and every company to communicate or conduct business equally without interference from a third party — like your broadband provider or the government.
With a two-tiered system, your small company’s website selling super widgets might load at a snail’s pace, versus the website of a behemoth like Wal-Mart or Amazon selling the same widgets loading at lightning speed, because they have paid Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast for a premium fast lane. Online consumers are notoriously impatient, and such a system would favor the big boys at the expense of smaller retailers or start-up companies.
But more worrisome is the possibility that the telecoms might collude with the government to censor or hobble websites offering dissident content. Considering that telecoms have already been implicated for secretly cooperating with the NSA’s indiscriminate and unconstitutional snooping, this is no paranoid fantasy. And make no mistake, the powers that be in Washington, D.C., are very disturbed at the decline of the MSM’s (mainstream media) influence and the rise of alternative media. In a speech to staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brazil last year, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “… ever since the end of the Cold War, forces have been unleashed that were tamped down for centuries by dictators, and that was complicated further by this little thing called the Internet and the ability of everyone to communicate instantaneously … It makes it much harder to govern.”
Yes, dictators and governments that masquerade as democracies are finding it harder to maintain mind control over a populace that can access uncensored websites from around the globe. Recall how Julian Assange and Wikileaks were praised by our politicians when they were exposing corruption in foreign nations — and then hounded as traitors and subversives when they exposed American atrocities, like the callous murder of journalists and civilians in Iraq.
The consolidated major news networks have largely degenerated into government propaganda megaphones. This was amply demonstrated in a recent online interview with Jesse Ventura and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks YouTube channel. Both recounted how they and others (Phil Donohue and Ashley Mayfield) were effectively censored at MSNBC, supposedly the most “liberal” network, despite all having top ratings. Ventura, Donohue and Mayfield were moved to non-primetime slots or canned with exclusionary contracts that prevented them from speaking out on other venues. Their sin? Criticizing the illegal and disastrous Iraq war. Uygur was offered the same lucrative “deal,” because he had become too critical of Obama, and was told, verbatim, that he needed to be more “pro-establishment.” To his great credit, he turned down the money, left and started The Young Turks on YouTube, which now has over 1 billion viewers.
Meanwhile, the major networks are in serious decline: Combined primetime viewership for Fox, CNN and MSNBC has dropped 11 percent over last year. Fox is still leading the pack, but its median viewer age is 68, and the other networks are close behind. The younger demographic is abandoning the major networks in droves, preferring unscripted and uncensored shows like The Young Turks.
For a rogue government that has increasingly violated the Constitution and international law with blanket surveillance, torture, secret bank bailouts, illegal foreign invasions and other crimes and misdemeanors, this is a major problem, as John Kerry so candidly noted. It’s getting harder and harder to brainwash the masses and keep the dirty secrets under cover when the likes of Alex Jones’ and Justin Raimondo’s websites dish out the unexpurgated truth to millions of viewers.
That’s why the FCC’s new rules may very well become a Trojan horse to curtail the uninhibited freedom of the Internet and impose Chinese-style censorship on the sly, as well as another means for stymieing competition and gouging consumers. (Estonia offers faster broadband rates for lower rates than the U.S.) For those who would like to take up John Oliver’s call to arms and counter Comcasts’s $18 million voice, you may express your opinion here: http://www.fcc.gov/comments.
GJ Free Press columnist Travis Kelly is a web/graphic designer, writer and cartoonist in Grand Junction. See his work or contact him at http://www.traviskelly.com.
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