Help, Help, My Internet’s Bein’ Repressed!
Here you go, people: a full-on lapse of the Taoist calm as I struggle with
Why Americans ACTUALLY Don’t Have Cheap, Fast Internet
There are a lot of theories about this. I’m here to talk about the big central truth behind all the right theories. The core of it; the main point; the real problem.
NO I AM NOT KIDDING. READ THAT AGAIN.
Here’s the deal: In a few states, people have successfully gotten together and formed some type of community organization to provide Internet access. They didn’t do it for fun — they did it because the deal they were getting from the major providers sucked, with really slow speeds and high prices, and they got sick of it. This actually happened in the city next door to me, when a local muni-fi project was shut down by lawsuit from Comcast (I think it was Comcast). The non-tax-funded company in North Carolina that the article above talks about built their own fiber network for a city of 74,000 people. They were able to provide WAY faster internet than the local BigCo (Time Warner in this case), and at much cheaper prices – something like the kind of deals people have in OTHER COUNTRIES but NOT IN THE USA.
Ah, The USA.
Where we’re all advanced and innovative and democratic, as long as the innovation and democracy come from, you know, the right sort of people. As long as it doesn’t come from groups of individuals working together to better themselves and their communities.
No, we’re only allowed to have as much innovation and democracy as a certain class of people tell us we can. They will control our government for their financial benefit, and we’ll buy what they have to offer whether we like it or not. If we create our own companies to compete with them, or just flip them off and decide to do it ourselves, us and our neighbors and screw them – if we exercise our “right to vote with our wallets” — then they’ll do everything they can to shut us down.
Am I being strident enough about this yet? Because I really don’t think a topic like this can be strident enough. I don’t want to live in a fucking corporatocracy like in some sick science fiction future, okay? And I know enough about science fiction that I don’t think I’m fucking crying chicken when it’s real actual giant corporations really actually wielding the government as a tool of repression and control to the point where citizen groups that can accomplish things for cheaper than the corporations want to sell us get shut down by their own legislators.
Here, just to spark some outrage (because that is what good stridency does), have some real live example numbers:
(Click “Read More” and prepare to say “Holy Sh!t”)
GREENLIGHT (NC’s local ISP) PRICE FOR 10 MB up AND DOWN, 81 cable channels & unlimited VOIP phone service: $99 (Internet only, $35)
TIME WARNER 10MB up / 1 (yes one) MB down, less than 80 channels & unlimited phone: $137 (Internet only, $57)
There, aren’t you glad you don’t have that? Aren’t you glad these laws are there, and that these companies have the kind of power to lobby to make them happen? Aren’t you thrilled that their power to do so is growing…and don’t you sometimes feel the same terror I do, wondering what they’re using that power to do that we don’t know about – what effect they’re having on medical innovations, drugs and health care, food and food products, and everything else they sell? (Like water, they sell *water* dammit.)
Thing is, some people will say that governments — plural; local state and national — won’t do better than corporations. But who is the governments? By whose involvement does government improve? Whose job is it to make governments better around here?
And all this comes down to something that hit me in the head just today. One of those coincidental whaps the Universe sometimes gives you to shake shit loose. Finding the article about Internet access was just the last straw — it’s a topic I know something about (but could I know more), but the point is, that part hardly matters. Being involved is how you learn more, and it’s how you make things better. To not be involved and to bitch about how it’s going is like leaping from your car while it’s moving and then cussing about the asshole who just wrecked your car. Yes, it’s a group process, government, and the involvement of me or you won’t change everything overnight. But it’s where change comes from.
DEMOCRACY IS *YOUR* *JOB*. Local government is not imaginary or powerless, and the more we lose interest in it the more we cede control of our lives to the people who want it — and those people invariably don’t want to treat us well. Open any history book for all the citations you’ll ever need on that one.
And it really might happen. It really might be happening, right now, all over the country. How far it goes, when and if it stops, depends entirely on the people on the ground and how they react. Complacency on the part of too many equals disaster, pure and simple.
I’m going to think about this more. A lot more.
And I’m going to take some steps to get involved in local governance. I don’t want to, but I’m going to. I’m not much of a people-person, I hate politics and drama, and I don’t think of myself as good at “that sort of thing”, but it no longer matters — the point is that as many informed people as possible need to be involved, or the whole democracy thing is meaningless. If Joe the Plumber wants to stay home from town hall meetings and never learn what a local election is, that’s his business, and as a community and a country we might not really be missing out on anything if he does stay home. But I’m not him, and really I’ve got no excuse for staying home. Which means that if we do end up in the Terminator future or something, I won’t be able to blame anybody but myself and the rest of the people who were like me.
Which is pretty damn unacceptable. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s self-blame. My disdain is withering and I prefer not to aim it up my own nose. ;)
It’ll be interesting to see how many of my Net-neighbors will be with me, and how many will remain complacent as I work to remedy my own inaction.