A VICTORY FOR DEMOCRACY AND REAL CAPITALISM
Posted - March 4, 2015 -- Democracy rests on a foundation of freedom of expression and access to information from multiple sources, whether it’s from the media giants, the mom and pop local news source, the cranky blogger, or a community Facebook group; and capitalism only works when the playing field is level, enabling the best and most innovative to rise to the top, rather than a precipice, at the top of which predatory plutocrats perch, picking off those struggling to climb up.
That is why, small internet content providers, like Northwordnews, exhaled a collective sigh of relief this past Thursday when the Federal Communications Commission in a 3-2 party line vote chose to re-classify the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. The decision is a huge victory for democracy and fairness, as it will, for the time being, ensure that customers and content providers, regardless of their size or wealth, have equal opportunity in both accessing and disseminating information.
With the internet now classified as a utility, the FCC will be able to protect “net neutrality” by regulating service providers such as Verizon and Optimum so as to prohibit the offering of “paid prioritization.” In other words, internet service providers will not be able to have “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” for which customers and content providers would pay different prices, with only the larger ones being able to afford the service that allows their sites to load at at the higher speeds.
The decision will ensure that mom and pop start-ups like Northwordnews or the Gold Coast Beacon, or bloggers – those modern day Thomas Paines - can compete on the same fast playing field as the giant corporations such as PATCH, an online network of local news sources that AOL created in 2007 with a $300,000,000 investment, or Newsday that is owned by Cablevision, the parent company of Optimum.
There should be no worries that internet neutrality will discourage innovation among internet service providers, as critics have argued, so long as there is some competition - as we have in our area. We witness the battle for customers between these two giants every day when we open our mailboxes or turn on the television. And with Google Fiber expanding into some cities across the country, maybe this market will one day become more competitive. As for any area of the country where there is only one service provider, there is no incentive to innovate anyway - with or without net neutrality.
Hopefully, for the sake of democracy and capitalism, the utility classification will hold - surviving the inevitable costly lawsuits, and the efforts of Congressional ideologues, throwbacks to the late 19th century, clamoring for its repeal.
The FCC’s action is not a relic of the 1930s, but rather a forward looking decision that recognizes that the internet is as important as the water or electricity that enters our homes. (Northwordnews)
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