I am and always have been, a staunch supporter of net neutrality bills and heavier regulation on the purveyors of this grand information super highway we find ourselves on. I have a reason to be; the world wide web is a part of me. I’ve grown up with it- I was on AOL and talking to strangers by the age of nine, somehow avoiding becoming an eight-o-clock news special along the way. When I first crawled onto the internet and made my place, it was nothing novel to me as it is to those who grew up in the years before it.
I cut my teeth quickly, gravitating from children’s virtual pet sites to their message boards, from there to the text-based epic fantasy RPG systems early on, then on to news forums and political boards and special-interest e-mail groups. From early diary systems to wide social networks, I’ve been here, watching my world expand at a rate I never thought possible. There was a time when what the internet meant, for me, was nothing more than a multi-user dungeon and an IRC client. I did not then see what I do now; that the internet is nothing less than the platform on which humankind can truly attain freedom and equality.
I was not there for the beginning, no, but I have grown with the internet, and around it, and as such am afforded a perspective that while not unique, I cannot believe is common. If it were common, every other citizen of the world wide web would be in the rage I find myself in.
The problem with the prevailing attitude toward internet services, it seems, is a fundamental lack of understanding as to what the internet is for, and what, precisely, it is. The internet, some would have you believe, is a privilege. They frame it as an amenity, something that you should not quail at paying exorbitant prices for, because it is, on some level, like attending a movie theater or going to a park. The ‘three strikes’ proposals make this apparent, because denial of service without due process would be perfectly acceptable, perhaps, in a business place, a place in which your behavior did not suit the management. The attitude also shows in the recent bill passed requiring- not permitting, but requiring- ISPs in America to monitor their customers and keep those records on file for a year, in case the police might need them. That sort of attitude is what leads to cameras in businesses and areas of high traffic, constantly monitoring, ready for analysis at any given time.
I never attribute to malice what might be attributed to stupidity, but I never mistake for stupidity what is certainly malice.
What is happening now, with the calculated destruction of your internet rights, is malice. It is targeted, it is direct, and every single detail of the current status quo is part of a greater plan. There is an end game. For the ISPs, and the copyright profiteers, it is as it has always been, profit in the next quarter, ignorant of the ripples ten years in the future. On the part of the government, it is altogether more sinister.
I charge many of our lawmakers and enforcers, worldwide, with being actively engaged in what I say without hyperbole is the deliberate subjugation of the population. For as long as man has stood, there have been those who have stood at the fringe and said “That- there- that is what is happening. They seek to control you.” As time passed, that message became- “They seek to control you, and it will be done with technology.” Great authors have seen it in different ways- Orwell in controlled communication, Huxley in controlled population, and while they wrote well to the spirit of the thing, they could not have foreseen the way it would be done any more than Asimov could have predicted miniaturization.
What is being done is this: The world has been opened up and laid bare in a way that far transcends any jump we have made in the past. First we began to sail the oceans; now we sail the stars. From the advent of written language to the invention of the printing press to the use of the Pony Express to the presence of party-lines in every town, man’s ability to communicate with his neighbor has changed who his neighbors are. Where once we stared with suspicion at the next tribe over, we now find solidarity with Egyptian protesters and follow, minute by minute, as moguls fall and iconoclasts rise.
And now they want to take it away from you.
They won’t say it that way, of course.
It’s merely the cost of doing business. You’re using too much bandwidth. If you want the best, shouldn’t you pay for it? Everyone’s spoiled, they don’t want to pay for service. People are thieves, they should be monitored. Copyright violation will destroy creativity- nobody will do anything if they’re not making millions for their publishers. It’s a matter of national security. Your children might be victims of the next terror attack.
But what they mean is: we’ve seen this new world, and we must control it.
The great, wicked machine is turning, the dystopian nightmare has already begun. It is most visible in those countries we deplore aloud for their policies- for the nation-wide filters against certain types of content, for their shut-downs of systems during times of unrest. But it is most insidious, and proceeding without great alarm or even awareness, in every nation in the world.
The use of the internet is not a privilege. It is the natural right of the twenty-first century human being, and the denial of access to the internet community, to any internet community without just cause, is nothing less than an intrusion on your liberty. If we allow anyone- the government, the ISPs, the copyright industry- anyone at all, to lay restrictions on how we communicate, globally, then the restrictions will be laid upon the same people restrictions are always laid upon- the people without coffers full of money or political influence.
The beautiful thing about the internet is that it is mass communication, unbound. Every man, woman, and child can have their say, instantaneously. If we let them win this fight- if ISPs are permitted to cap data and not provide tiered plans or unlimited options, if the largest companies persist in buying up the smaller companies and a market without choice erupts, then the only part of the population that will have completely free speech, world-wide, will be the same people who have always had it. This new world we have seen glimpses of will never flourish, it will die still-born.
You’ve seen what kings do, when peasants cannot rise against them. Every time, when peasants have brought them down and become kings themselves, it has been done because those peasants communicated, and moved as one.
They wish to take hot coals to our tongues, these kings of today, as all kings have always done to those who speak against them. But in all other times, they have been only able to silence the speaker, not the platform. When assembly is prohibited, peasants whisper. When whispering is prohibited, peasants write. Never before has there been such an equalizer, a system that allows peasants always to shout and assemble.
Don’t let them take it from you. If you do, they will keep it for themselves, and they will cement their hold over you with it.