The Internet is Fucked
We had a good run, but “The Internet is fucked,” proclaims Verge staff writer Nilay Patel. Who is fucking over whom in cyberspace, you ask? For starters, Comcast threatened to withhold bandwidth from Netflix unless the video streaming wunderkind paid up. Threatened by Comcast’s anti-competitive and greedy tactics, Netflix conceded to this wonderfully euphemistic “paid peering” agreement. Internet Service Providers AT&T and Verizon have also erected cyber barriers to shield from their competition, blocking popular apps such as Apple FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Google Wallet from their platforms. Patel not only laments the corporatization of the Internet, but also how the government has failed to implement measures to stop it. As the ISP industry imposes controls that threaten the free range Internet as we know it, the FCC, the independent government agency that supposedly “protects free expression” and “promotes competition” on the “Open Internet,” has been either entirely ineffective or invisible. Americans pay the most money for the slowest Internet speeds precisely because of the lack of competition and regulation of the Internet industries, which affords heavy hitters like Comcast and Verizon to the luxury of success without innovation, without trying.
Despite the substantial evidence in support of a “fucked” Internet, Patel’s article made me want to say, “hey! This is my Internet you are talking about!” It offended me as a citizen of the Internet, and the land of my people, of everyone. In this era where the cyber and public sphere are synonyms, every individual who uses and develops the Internet is the Internet, and Comcast plays no role in this process. If we compare cybercitizens’ Internet use to be like casting a vote for the president of cyberspace,
Netflix, a company who comprises up to 50% of Comcast’s nightly Internet usage, would surely beat Comcast by a landslide. Even though Netflix conceded to Comcast’s demands in attempt to protect their service and uphold their commitment to customers, it may have behooved both Netflix and cybercitzens had they openly opposed Comcast’s corporate greed. Frankly because there is no other company that hosts comparable quality content to Netflix and no one ever liked Comcast to begin with, mainstream cybercitizens would have very likely sided with Netflix. In this scenario, not only would Netflix get off duty-free, but they also would have exposed mainstream cyberspace to the wrath of the Internet overlords. Comcast and other ISPs have neglected the interests of the Internet and Internet communities, and we have consented. It’s time that the Internet takes back the Internet and meaningfully confront the monopolizing ISPs. Where can we find the strength to weaken the grip of some of the most vertically integrated and important corporations in America? As the power of these ISPs roots in the offline domain of phone lines and satellite towers and cables, not even the most prominent sub-reddit or most reblogged tumblr could begin to bring them down alone. While mistrust of government regulation is often justified, in this situation, we have let perhaps the only institution with greater than or equal power to ISPs off the hook. Public fear about government interference in Internet activities has almost nullified any will of the FCC to promote net neutrality. The skeptical public encourages FCC’s weak stance on the issues of net neutrality and corporate conglomeration of cyberspace because we don’t put enough responsibility on them to care. Perhaps the only way to salvage the “fucked Internet” is to find some faith in our messed up government.