If Taking Back the Internet Is the Only Option

Additional F.C.C. Comments Submitted by Jim Hickey, 9/11/2014, in Regard to Docket Number 14-28—Protecting & Promoting the Open Internet

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeThe following is an invitation to dialogue that takes advantage of the opportunity of the FCC window for Net Neutrality comments. Obviously, if nobody has anything to say, the invitation has fallen on deaf ears. We ought to be talking about these things. 

“We are in the midst of an enclosure movement in our information environment. In other words, our society is making a series of decisions that will subject more of the ways in which each of us uses information to someone else’s exclusive control.” Professor Yochai Benkler; New York University School of Law: 74 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 354.

Though the ideal has perhaps rarely if ever actually taken shape, real democracy means majority rule, the placement of power in the hands of the people. Thus, this process, which includes a nice expression of the forms of democracy—we are having our say here, after all—will also act as an experiment about the degree to which democracy’s substance prevails at this juncture.

I make this point at the outset because the overwhelming majority of comments that Docket 14-28 has collected, as the aggregators at the Sunlight Foundation and elsewhere have attested, have unequivocally opposed any thoroughgoing manifestation of a bifurcated Internet. The ratio of those who support an open Internet—one without ‘fast lanes’ and other methods for privileging higher paying users—is on the order of nine to one, or even ninety-nine to one.

Under such circumstances, any choice other than a rejection of such ‘privileging’ mechanisms will tell a dire tale about American democracy. Citizens will then have no choice but to conclude that the facts of life are that dollars and monopoly financial and industrial power count more heavily than vast majorities of mere human beings, voters, and participants in what reason and honesty will compel us to see as a charade.

FCC-buildingSince we do not want to discover that our cherished liberties and rights no longer exist, and that their promise is fraudulent, we must hope against hope that the Federal Communications Commission members, Republican and Democratic alike, will take heed and recognize the will of the people when it so clearly shows up in front of them.

Provisionally, therefore, we may assume that a forthright repudiation will occur of all policies that countenance ‘fast lanes’ or like methods for managing our virtual spaces. In the event, I maintain that we ought to make three additional requests. One might—in light of the notion that the people supposedly rule, that we are the bosses of our government—state this trio as a set of demands should folks agree that they are seemly and necessary.

  1. The F.C.C. must hold a series of participatory dialog sessions at which citizens themselves have an opportunity to discuss the matters that this Docket has brought to the fore; at least ten such listening sessions should take place, in each region of the country, and the agenda and management of the gatherings should at every stage reflect inputs from people in that region.
  2. The F.C.C. must make available funding and support for popular education about the history of the Internet, a process that includes folks’ learning about the roles of the Defense Advance Research Project Agency, the National Science Foundation, and other public and academic stakeholders in the origins of the Internet; these public courses, both face-to-face and online, will also teach about the decisions to ‘privatize’ the greatest public resource in history.
  3. The F.C.C. must schedule further public meetings—at which citizens’ voices remain the chief purpose of getting together—which permit discussion and debate about municipally operated broadband, in some senses a separate issue but indubitably, at least in many cases where oligopolistic Internet Service Providers are non-performing, a key component of any viable ‘open Internet,’ inasmuch as a doorway without access is like ownership without possession.

A much longer set of bullet points might show up, which would detail actions that the people themselves need to take on their own behalf, but such a delineation is not apropos here.
Despite our provisional assumption that a massive majority will carry the field in our erstwhile democracy, what if such a belief turns out to be false? What if the F.C.C. ignores what the public unequivocally demands?

Given that this vicious eventuality transpired, citizens would essentially have only two options. On the one hand, they could accept their own impotence and the lack of even the most basic respect that wealth and power have for popular will. Or, on the other hand, they could make certain that an uprising of militant democratic action took place, even more stridently and powerfully to demand that we are in fact the basis for what happens in this country.

tomwheeler2-300x300I certainly pray that the Federal Communications Commission shows the modicum of respect for public opinion that can only elicit a rejection of a two-tier or many-tiered Internet. In the event that this prayer goes unanswered, I can only hope even more fervently that people take this hideous insult to heart and rise up against the promulgators of such disrespect. A mass movement to reclaim the Internet is possible.

In that vein, I’d like to point out that before Spring of 1995, the Internet—which was then the National-Science-Foundation Net—was a wholly owned asset of the United States of America, an entity of which the ninety-nine percent of us making these comments are the purported rulers. Should the F.C.C. see fit to disregard our clear directives, then if we don’t want to shrug at our powerlessness, we will certainly guarantee that the United States of America take back what it gave away on the understanding that democratic access would continue to be the standard operating procedure, a promise of which the ignoring of our instructions would make a mockery.

I’ll hope to hear from people.
solidarity forever!

 

 

 

 

 

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