Coming Internet fight promises a Web of intrigue
By Leo Canty
Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:07 PM EDT
The sides are lining up in the corners of the ring for the big contest: Tel-Com Giants in one corner, Internet Heavyweights in the other. But they’re not the only ones in this fight. Congress, consumers, labor, business and Net-nerds are also staking their spots on the mat, making their presence and preferences known.
There’s a lot at stake for the winners and losers in this battle over the future of the Internet for America.
Are you ready for this rumble?
Most Internet users know how to punch the keys to check e-mail, do some e-shopping or engage in other forms of e-browsing or business. The ubiquitous Net is always there on your laptop, desktop, or portable portal waiting for your command to do something. And we’re commanding in increasing numbers.What we’ve been overlooking lately is what it takes to provide that access and who really owns it.
There are also issues about the complex system and type of infrastructure needed to provide that access.And let’s not forget all the politics that will ultimately surround the call on who will win or lose.“Net Neutrality” is the promoter of the big fight. The argument, in an overly simplified description, is: Should the Internet be a free, open, accessible information highway for the use and benefit of anyone that gets on it? Or should it be managed and controlled allowing for restricted access — as determined by that free market that has done so well for us of late?
The FCC has begun drafting the rules and answering those questions as it moves to define “Net Neutrality.” It’s about time.
Many nations are way ahead of us on the issues of Internet access rules and expansion. We have more users but we’re falling behind rapidly in penetration, especially with high- speed broadband. We are way behind No. 1 e-nation South Korea, and Estonia is a few pegs above us.
We are collectively in another contest outside the ring, inside the global marketplace. Technology, fast and available, boosts nations in this competitive environment. Wide-open, unrestricted paths make it easier to achieve better economic outcomes. Jobs, education, health care, government services, social connections, services for the disabled, safety, and security can all be enhanced with fewer controls and restrictions on Net access, along with a faster, expanded system.
Understandably the Tel-Com Giants have an issue in their desire to restrict the flow. The current Internet infrastructure — that stuff we’re ignoring — is limited now and may not be able to handle a big expansion of volume. Capacity is an issue.
Net Neutrality opponents shout that argument from their corner. More likely, they’re less able to boost big, fast profits without more control of the supply as demand increases. It’s about money. Lots of money.
The real question is: Should a bunch of Tel-Coms make a ton of money, or should a ton of companies make a bunch of money? Access restrictions could also hamper free speech and grow our technology divide. It’s a big issue that we’ll hear a lot more about soon.
The Tel-Com Giants can’t foot the bill for a big Net expansion, especially if they can’t monopolize profit-boosting outcomes. So why don’t we all invest in the program and get a jump on nations like South Korea and Estonia. Other countries are investing in their Net structures, they see the potential for a great return with jobs and enhanced lives.
Ding! A winner!
And here’s some information about a winning plan for us. The Communications Workers of America is focused on the Internet, speed and broadband jobs expansion, and people all across America. Punch those keys for www.speedmatters.org and find out about the Net stuff CWA has been paying attention to while we were e-mailing and browsing.
Our nation can’t afford to get knocked out of the ring in the global economic bout because we’re too slow. Americans surely don’t want to be left out of the loop when it comes to Internet-access rules.
Let’s hope the FCC and Congress makes us all winners in this fight.
Leo Canty is a labor and political activist. He lives in Windsor.