Digital Frontier: Net Neutrality

There’s many fires on the digital frontier, but one of the fiercest and most important battles is net neutrality. I tease a couple of you about the possibility of our lives becoming a few chapters out of Shadowrun. I standby it! If moneyed companies continue to have more influence over our lives than us, then we should just start decking or go to shamanism. Because that’ll be all they’ll give us.

For those out of loop, there’s basically been a sustained attack on the freedom of the internet for a few years now. Broadband companies want to charge customers extra for fast internet performance. One could argue that we’ve been losing this battle over the years. In the United States, cable companies commonly offer packages to customers which increase their internet speed. The difference this time is that those same companies want to get their hands in the pockets of the services which offer the content. Those Saturday night binges on Netflix would come to a screeching halt if Netflix suddenly had to charge you $50 per month for the service. Downloading music from Amazon would become a lot less appealing if the MP3s began to cost $3 a pop. These are the kinds of impacts we can expect if the companies win. That’s in addition to the real show-stopper for us content generators: I get relegated to the internet slow lanes along with every other independent writer and broadcaster. Some free services may no longer be free.

I don’t know how this works out for other countries. I’d love to know more so if you’re in a different part of the world, chime in.

For Americans, the end of net neutrality would really change the way we use the internet. We can take for granted our unfettered access to sites like XP Chronicles, but under the new laws this blog would have lower class status, my page loads would go up unless I pay up. No one is arguing for free services. We’re asking for neutrality. Comcast’s site shouldn’t operate at higher speeds because they’re rich. My site shouldn’t be slowed to a crawl because I can’t pay more than $10 a month.

I’d be wrong if I didn’t mention that this battle is part of a larger war for equality. Protests are still blowing up all over the USA about minimum wage. Middle class jobs are still dwindling and most of us are under paid. It’s gotten so bad that there’s actually college graduates arguing that if they can’t get $15 an hour, people who serve them food for a living shouldn’t either. I guess that just goes to show the quality of our current education system itself. Graduates should know better.

Layoffs in the games industry are steady as well, as usual. Game developers are still working job to job with insane hours. Indies are finding themselves barely staying afloat in the sea of games competing for a finite number of gamer dollars. Those of us at the bottom are being squeezed more and more each year to buy ever increasing goods (like internet access) with ever decreasing salaries. Something’s got to give.

I think the big internet push to get everyone to contact their politicians has been really great. I’m not convinced we’ll win this battle in the end, because winning this battle won’t necessarily win the war. Companies will find other ways to get what they want. I think we’ll hold out for as long as we can. Money tends to win in the USA. But I’ll gladly eat my foot if I’m wrong. With glee. While surfing the free internet.

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