Net neutrality is a topic creating quite a lot of heat at the moment, due to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's taking a look at the topic and scaring people silly in the process with the implication that there'd be the development of a two-tiered internet with them as can pay going down the line at a premium rate and the rest crawling along as best can. (CNET provides as good a summary as any.)
So what? It's a fuss in a foreign land, isn't it?
Sadly not. It'll affect us however much we may imagine or hope that it wouldn't.
So what would be the effect and why should we care?
The way I see it, the nearest practical model for how the post-net neutrality world would look is cable television. Back in the day when cable TV first came out it was full of all sorts of community engagement. There were local and hyperlocal channels; there was space for the esoteric, the informative and the downright baffling. Much of it was done on the cheap and looked it.Then there were years of consolidation and corporate buyings-up and now I could watch NCIS and CSI: Miami simultaneously on six different channels; or endless hours watching folks in nowhere towns somewhere in America shouting at each other for no apparent reason; an interminable churn of mid-Atlantic reality wannabees being vile to one another; and a carousel of Westminster Village news feeds. None of it is local. All of it is peddling the same corporate narrative. News or features about anything within a hundred miles of where I live is limited to the local half-hour news programmes on weekdays and the ten minutes where the skateboarding ducks used to be after the weekend news.
I quite liked the Internet when it was like the Wild West. We can't go back to those days but that doesn't mean it has to become just another adjumct to the Wall Street Journal.
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