I woke this morning to the news that Network Neutrality had lost to an appeal by the corporate providers. This is a big setback, and personally raises in me a sense of despair. Yes. The decision can, and surely will be appealed yet again. But look at the Supremes. these are people who upheld the Citizens United decision. Then look at the plaintiffs who won just now. Time Warner is in my neck of the woods, so lets look at Time Warner Cable. They provide the only wired internet service in this region and much of upstate New York. They are the only cable provider, though there are a couple of satellite tv providers.
Time Warner has a richer selection of channels in some ways, but they don’t support the foreign news channels or national public service networks. And what programming occupies the vast central wasteland they present? Old movies on HBO and other pay more stations. These movies are like the ones that used to play on regular TV back in the days of local providers and rabbit ears on the set. There are stations that play nothing but infomercials, and stations that repeat old episodes of the various flavors of Law and Order or CSI 24/7. There are stations that show the same programs you could have watched in 1970, all day. Time Warner just dropped Russia Today and picked up a new Al Jazeera channel that self consciously emulates a down home American news outlet. This from a conservative Arab Kingdom governed by an obscenely rich tribal chieftain.
Endless cooking competitions and repeats ranging across 60 years of archives. Endless police shows and dog trainers, and some bad old movies, mostly action adventure, military or cops. Increasingly mean spirited and emotionally vacuous sitcoms cluster on the locally loaded stations, ABC, NBC, CBS, FIOX. If you want more, you have to pay more, and the curve is pretty flat. All this is determined by the bottom line and the fact that people are easily hypnotized by moving images of themselves. Its all about profits and the cheapest way to keep people sitting still. Yes, there are some sports, (also incredibly repetitive) and if you want to pay more you can buy into the fancy ‘movie’ channels sophisticated ensemble dramas, classy Soap Operas with well written scripts, good casts and edgy themes, emerging at a rate of 1 or 2 (week-hours) per year, and then also repeated endlessly on the followup channels.
They also own the wires over which the internet reaches us, and now they are free to arrange it to their advantage. Why should you be free to choose your email provider from an open field when Time Warner is free to exact bribes to direct you to one or the other? Money trumps all. How will you afford to see the content you want, and will the provider of the content be able to afford a spot you can get to. Time Warner and their ilk have been given permission to organize the shops on the street any way that profits them? So, money will eventually decide what shops are on main street, and which are left in a back ally. And the demarcation will be speed of access.
I am a retired computer professional and I understand that it is very hard to work when your system isn’t responding reliably. I once read that an inexperienced programmer with a fast system would be more efficient than an experience programmer with a very slow one. I hate to admit it, but it’s probably true. It’s tough to keep your focus when your brain times out before the device responds. What if your favorite blog shows up one word at a time with pauses between? Meanwhile Fox News and CNN effortlessly crank out the same glossy 15 minutes of tripe with video ads on the sidelines, without a pause.
While everyone is getting hysterical about universal surveillance, the courts are getting ready to give Time Warner and Comcast the right to decide what information we can see and what is hidden, based on graft. I keep thinking, how will I entertain myself in a world where the internet looks like Cable TV, and it’s lights out in the great electronic library?