Is the end of net neutrality really a bad thing?

The relative equality when it comes to the internet now seems to be in question. The idea of “net neutrality” relates to the fact that it costs the same amount of money to access any part of the internet. For the fee that you pay your ISP, you can access any site equally. But what if that neutrality was gone? What if people had to pay more to access more popular sites? What if you were charged a different premium every time you wanted to access Google, Netflix, or Amazon? Or you were charged more to view a site over a mobile device?

There is such a movement that stands before our congress now, and it looks to be gaining momentum. Of course this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. If businesses can find a way to increase profits, they’ll do it, and quite frankly I’m surprised companies have been letting people access their sites for free out the goodness of their hearts for as long as the internet has been around. Critics charge that this will unfairly skew how the average American accesses information. That’s a fair charge, to be certain.

But then I think about a world where people can’t really afford the internet, or can’t afford constant access to it, and I question whether or not that would actually be a bad thing. Think of how much complete and total bullshit and misinformation there is on the internet, and how much is added every day. Would it really be a bad thing if this new economic model for the internet made it so that people were less able or willing to access sites that contain erroneous bullshit?

And then I think about the media that we’re constantly inundated with. Would it really be a bad thing if people weren’t bombarded by talking heads and pundits and advertisements from their tablets, phones, TVs and other other devices 24/7? Seems like that might be a good thing to me.

I also think about the Google culture we now live in. Would it really be a bad thing if people couldn’t just Google the answer to something, and instead had to, I don’t know, figure something out by themselves? Before the internet existed, if you wanted to know the answer to something you had to educate yourself on the topic. But you don’t have to do that anymore thanks to Google. The internet instantly and blindly feeds people answers to their questions. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that instead of turning to Google to be told how to think, people regain some of their common sense and critical thinking skills.

Maybe I’m being too critical of the internet and technology. There certainly are a lot of good things about the internet. It puts us in touch with people and places we otherwise probably would never have made contact with. There certainly is something to be said for the access to what quality information does exist on the internet. But is the double edged sword worth it? Is it really worth being flooded with misinformation and opinion masquerading as fact? Is it really worth conditioning people to expect instant gratification? Is it really worth conditioning people to stop learning because they can just Google it? I don’t know that it is.

When I imagine a world where the internet is priced out of reach for a lot of people or where pricing makes people much more selective about where they go and what they do on the internet, I picture a place where people actually talk to each other, go outside, or read a book instead of binge watching some TV on netflix. I imagine a world where people read the newspaper again. I imagine a world where people visit public libraries again!

I just think that the world without net neutrality wouldn’t be such a bad place. I think there might be some upsides to it, actually. At the very least, perhaps it would force people to discriminate more when it comes to what they choose to access online. The loss of any convenience is always a hard transition to make. But people adapt and life goes on. And sometimes conveniences do take something away from us.

Of course, in reality the internet probably does more good than harm. And it’s probably here to stay. Maybe I’m just being too critical.



4 thoughts on “Is the end of net neutrality really a bad thing?

  1. I do think it would be a pretty big hindrance to people like me. If it weren’t for the internet, I’m not sure if I would know anything about Linux whatsoever. Maybe a little, thanks to the class I’m taking now, but I wouldn’t know how to run Arch at all (one of the least user friendly distros out there). Taking away net neutrality would cause a few problems beyond not being able to google it. College kids would possibly be fucked out of tons of money, since the used market for books is largely online, and it offers more price diversity than if it were local.
    Another problem there is that there are places for people to learn legitimate information, and most people don’t believe everything they read. The silent majority isn’t nearly as loud as the vocal minority.
    And the final problem is that I honestly don’t want to remember 40 different motherboards, what they do, how much RAM they can hold, and what the hell a RAID 4 is compared to a RAID 10. People in the IT field rely on google quite a bit for a ton of stuff. If I sat there and thought about what each type of motherboard did, I’d be able to remember it, but it’d take too damn long for it to be worth my time.
    One more problem (yes, I lied) is that memory isn’t exactly the best thing on the planet. If you ask how many people saw the first tower fall on 9/11, a ton of people would probably say they did, even though not many people actually did. The second tower was broadcast on national television, but the first wasn’t. We didn’t know there was going to be a terrorist attack until it happened. More personal example is that I goddam well knew that my first grade teacher had red hair, but she has always had blonde hair. I found that out when a picture popped up on facebook. Memory never has been, and probably won’t ever be, reliable.

    1. The internet certainly does have valid information to offer. But is that the only way to access that information? It’s not, and I don’t think the downsides that come with internet access are necessarily worth it.

      Before the internet existed it isn’t like doctors memorized every single drug and side effect or the symptoms for every single disease known to man. They had references books for that. The upside to reference books is that you aren’t flooded with the polarization, politicizing, and misinformation that comes with the internet, because reference books weren’t written and edited by every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wanted to voice their opinion from the literary rooftops. Prior to the internet, reference books for professions didn’t have a corporate ad on every page, chain letters about the presidential administration, or any other bullshit. You just straight up got the information you needed.

      I don’t think that reverting back to such a reference system would hinder anyone. And in the instance that it was easier for someone at work to just Google something, chances are whatever company you worked for would be the ones paying for it since it was job related and increased their worker productivity.

      I would almost, almost, be willing to grant you the bit about the silent majority. Except that the problem with it is that it’s silent. I don’t really care if the vast unsung majority is using the internet responsibly if the results of that use aren’t reflected in our society, which they’re not. It’s the vocal fringe groups and minorities that come out by the droves to vote and who exercise their political power more frequently. I’d gladly go back to using a physical book and I’d gladly give up Google and this blog if it meant that those people had less power in the system.

      1. We all have those days, and it doesn’t matter how you sounded back then if you don’t sound the same in the future, right? I’m the same way at times.
        I think they already have bandwidth limits, as well, which makes more sense to me. It’s like having government allocated stamps every month, and having to buy more if you use them all. I have a feeling that without net neutrality, it’ll be like them charging you extra to pay your bills through the post office, regardless of how many government stamps you have.
        I hope all you yungun’s out there understand the snail mail reference.

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