I used to think the Internet was magic. As I had with Harry Potter and would with dark chocolate, I encountered the World Wide Web at exactly the right moment. I was still in elementary school then and desperate for enchantment. The mere existence of PBSKids.org was all the evidence I needed. There had to be something larger and greater than our planetary system out there. I knew it.
And so, even in the dark ages of dial up, I marveled at the big plastic box in my living room, a portal to an invisible omnipotence I could never quite understand.
I’m older now, but no less awestruck. Despite my near congenital cynicism and the fact that I no longer yearn for the supernatural, the web is still a revelation to me. Google is a masterpiece. Netflix is a miracle. Facebook means that I will always be able to keep tabs on the boy I liked to kiss in high school. I am as convinced now as I ever was. This is modern sorcery.
It’s unsophisticated, maybe. I know now that the Internet is not some Never, Never Land; it’s made up of dollar signs and commerce and Facebook newsfeeds. But I believe in it still. For all of the noise and the tabs and the hours we have lost to Netflix, the World Wide Web has delivered. It has shrunk our universe to the size of a computer screen. It is more than a giant marketplace that Jeff Bezos owns.
But not everyone agrees with me. Internet providers like AT&T are pretty sure that the web is a media product and that they should be allowed to control how it is packaged and sold. My lone friend in the computer science department at school explained to me this means that until now, giant companies have had the ability to pay more money for faster connections, meaning smaller startups without such budget would have to endure slower service in comparison.
The FCC — or, the suits whose job it is to regulate just about every which way human beings make contact in America — announced yesterday that it intends to reclassify the Internet as a public utility. As in, the web is more like water than it is like cable television. Everyone deserves equal access to it.
The move is a big deal, and it’s making a lot of people very happy. Online titans like Facebook and Amazon have long been advocating for such a policy change. Over the summer, John Oliver clambered atop his hilarious soapbox to encourage people to write to the FCC in support of net neutrality. More than 4 million did, and the offensive crashed the agency’s servers. Others are less enthused. This is America, which means several gazillion big messy lawsuits are likely to come out of this.
I know I am not the only person who thinks Twitter is as essential as electricity. But here’s what I want to know: Why does it matter what we call the Internet? Is it a public good? Or is it just an unprecedented media on a massive scale? What does the prospect of an open and equal Internet mean to you?
from Man Repeller