I’m in the process of writing a piece on the municipalization of Internet service, and the research continues to reveal the depravity of how four major corporations control the infrastructure of telecommunications. The sheer amount of money that these corporations spend lobbying in order to maintain control over what is essentially their “territory” is absurd. The mindset of this type of control is the antithesis of community. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Smaller towns and even cities that aren’t extensive population centers are improving their infrastructure in such a way that attracts jobs and improves accessibility. Municipalizing accessibility to information is a model to which every community should aspire. Think about what municipalized electricity or even libraries or public parks do for a community. They improve awareness, interaction, and communication.
The difficulty (though I suppose it’s only difficult for corporate shareholders) is that type of municipalization somehow threatens the stability of a secure and maximized profit margin. In larger cities, where the corporations have a vested interest (and often an antiquated infrastructure), people suffer high rates, lousy service, poor maintenance, and limited access. This is an important shift in our modern collective imagination, in that metropolises are considered to be cosmopolitan places where ideas are most readily exchanged. But just as more media is exchanged online, the most populous urban centers are no longer the primary areas that have the fastest, most direct, and most reliable access to information. Municipalized access to the Internet isn’t happening in larger cities because the telecommunications corporations aren’t interested in giving up their monopoly on such a large and dependent group of subscribers. This hinders community interaction in a fundamental way.
As if accessibility in its current state wasn’t struggling enough, now the neutrality of the Internet is being threatened by these four large corporations. The major telecommunications groups want to capitalize on the success of other companies by allowing them to pay large fees to exchange information at much faster rates than anyone not paying these fees. Essentially, these four major corporations have gotten so out of control that the level playing field of the Internet is in jeopardy of succumbing to the same antiquated capital hierarchies we see plaguing most big business–the lobbying and mass production of anything from milk and eggs to pharmaceuticals–all in the interest of their profit margin.
Shouldn’t we recognize that when telecommunications corporations have this much control over how human beings share, something is hugely out of balance? The Internet–which is a collective body of stories, thoughts, and information… and ridiculous cat videos (in other words, media)–is ours. We shouldn’t need to pay a for-profit private group in order to utilize it. It exists in our collective imagination. We maintain it. We share it. Allowing for-profit corporations to control how we do so, and on what terms, is in my mind like letting Taco Bell monitor the collections at your local library.
John Oliver did a great piece on Net Neutrality. I’ll be commenting more on these issues in the coming days, but in the meantime, please enjoy this video.