The End of Net Neutrality
Fuck the FCC. I’ve hated those bastards ever since the 1990s when they repeatedly busted the pirate radio station I was helping operate in Albuquerque, N.M. The range of our broadcast was directly proportionate to how high one of us could climb a tree to hang the antennae. We were in a different location every week, but we weren’t exactly tough prey for the federal agency.
But times have changed. Yesterday, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the FCC’s open internet rules, which insured that service providers (Comcast, Verizon and the like) treat all traffic equally. That means that Comcast, say, which owns NBC, can make NBC’s videos stream twice as fast as Netflix’s. Verizon brought the suit, which claimed that net neutrality violated the first amendment.
The fact that the court agreed with this follows the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which argued that it was unconstitutional to limit campaign contributions, in protecting the freedom of corporate interests against the good of individual people.
Not only are corporations people, these rulings suggest, but they are the only people worth protecting, the only true citizens in this new feudal state.
So now I’m left defending a former foe in the FCC. As Ryan Singel noted in Platypus, the FCC could fix this by deciding to reverse its Bush-era decision to deregulate internet providers. At that time, the agency ceased to treat the providers like public utilities. But more likely, they’ll keep coming after cussers and whatever today’s equivalent of pirate radio stations are. But still, instead of saying “fuck the FCC,” I’ll be saying “fuck AT&T.” (Although, it is worth expressing your outrage to the FCC, as Michael Winship suggests in his post on Moyers & Company, which you can do via Twitter at @TomWheelerFCC)
But Singel also points out the other solution, and one which could really work for a basically crumbling city like Baltimore. “Cities can start preparing by literally laying the groundwork. Every time a city street undergoes serious repair, cities should be laying fiber cables that can be ‘lit’ later, as the fiber is cheap.”
Our streets are undergoing serious repair all the time. The sink holes and water-main breaks that have plagued the city could actually be an opportunity to lay fibers and create a municipal fiber network.
So come on SRB, this could be your legacy. Collectively, Baltimore spends way more time on the internet than at Schaefer’s paltry Inner Harbor. What is bad for us, but could be great for you.