They used to burn books. Now they throttle bandwidth.
I remember when the entire Internet used to be slow. Not just parts. Or at least it felt slow as its bits and bytes and packets tried to squeeze through a loudly beeping 2400 baud modem. When I got my first 56K modem it seemed lightning fast. I was so naive!
Then came DSL, which was faster still. Then broadband was everywhere. In cable lines. Even wireless. My phone could surf the Internet faster than my computer could just a few years earlier.
We had instant gratification.
More than instant. With big data and personalization algorithms we’d get notifications of things even before we thought to google them. It was a content utopia.
Did you miss that big play during a major sporting event? Watch it now!
Do you want to see a film the same day as it’s released in theaters without going to the theater? Watch it now!
Do you want to video chat with friends and family on the other side of the country or even around the world? Do it now!
Do you want to play a game? Read a new book? Learn a skill? Find a job? Find romance? Send money? Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!
We had the whole world in our hands in our smart phones and tablets and geeky wearable tech.
Then the gatekeepers began setting up toll bridges on the information superhighway. Companies could make their data flow faster just by paying a bit more. So they did. Those who could afford it did.
A few brave people cried foul. They pleaded for a return to “net neutrality.” But “net neutrality” was viewed as even less important than “climate change,” and those in power did not find “climate change” important much at all.
Companies with the money to do so paid for faster Internet speeds. Everyone else was jammed in slow lanes. As more companies paid to go faster, other companies paid even more to go even faster than their competitors who then paid more to keep up.
Companies had to choose between spending money on speed or spending money on content. Most chose speed. After all, if an innovative and artistic creation is uploaded but the site is frustratingly slow does it still make a million page views? “No,” was the prevailing wisdom.
Online content became overrun with shallow clickbait, recycled memes, reruns, reboots, and blatantly sponsored content. It wasn’t worth much, but you could get it instantly.
If someone didn’t like what a company said or did, sometimes even money couldn’t buy their way onto the fast lane.
Meanwhile many creative and brilliant people didn’t have much money. You can squeeze good content out of passion and time, but passion can’t buy bandwidth. Still they coded and edited and uploaded in hopes they’d be seen.
The good content was still there, but you had to be very patient. You had to be willing to wait. You had to be the special type of person who craves truth and beauty over the obvious and common.
Like you, daddy?
Well, I try, son. I really do. But it gets harder and harder each day. I’m beginning to miss the speed of my old modem.
Is the video done loading now?
Not yet, son. Not yet.
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Don’t let this fiction become reality. On May 15, the FCC unveils it’s “Open Internet” proposal. The FCC must reply to public comments, so make your voice heard. For an overview of the FCC rulemaking process and how to submit comments read the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) “Prepare to take action to defend net neutrality” page.
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