Net Neutrality… a fable.

So people seem to be confused as to why all the fuss about eliminating Net Neutrality.

“Who cares, Doug?  I can turn on my computer.  It still works. And I can still look at everything that I want to.  And besides, the government has too much control over everything.  And you know something else?… God bless President Trump for cutting all the red tape and bureaucracy and blah, blah, bloogah, bloogah…”

Okay, calm down. Breathe.  Let Uncle Doug break it down for you in an analogous tale.  A fable as it were.  So, imagine if you will that…..

Once upon a time, a town set aside some land to create a farmer’s market. Public space, graded and made useful utilizing tax dollars and therefore belonging to everyone… the public. All of the vendors are independent, small business operators, selling their locally grown fruits, vegetables and such direct to the public. But then one day the town politicians decide that they don’t want to administrate the market. They feel they shouldn’t be doing that as they are not in the farmer’s market business. Besides… for them to administrate the market is somewhat Socialist. Kind of like the police and fire departments, and traffic lights and sidewalks… but they’re saving those arguements for another time. For now, they will start by finding a way to privatize the farmer’s market.

So one day Wal-Mart comes along and offers to administrate the farmer’s market for the town, and build a big Super-Center store on the land. But it’s all going to be fine because Wal-Mart is going to make the same farmer’s market available within its new space. All of the same vendors will be able to set up their booths inside where they can sell their goods and it will be dandy. The town politicians love the idea. And they also love the campaign contributions that Wal-Mart has given them. So much so, that they waive all of the taxes or fees that might otherwise be due from Wal-Mart for putting the store on the public’s land. But It’s going to be great. Bigly great. And for a time, it seems to be working out. The public can still access the market. The vendors pay roughly the same rents for their stall spaces… everybody adjusts.

But then one day, Wal-Mart decides that they need to charge a $5.00 entrance fee to the public for entering the farmer’s market, because while the rents they charge the vendors are okay… Wal-Mart needs a higher profit margin. Because, profit is their business and this is a free market economy. Supply and demand. The public is furious. The vendors are furious. Everyone complains to the town. But the town has no say in this, because they turned the whole thing over to Wal-Mart (and besides, it’s not an election year and they have a golf tee time at 2pm, so … whatever). So Wal-Mart offers the customers a deal. If the people who want to go into the farmer’s market will agree to buy a 32 pack of Coke, Wal-Mart will give them a coupon that will wave the $5.00 entrance fee. And the vendors…. well, they can go pound sand.

And then one day (another “one day”)… Wal-Mart decides that they don’t like the guy with the funny hat who sells the fresh, local corn from his stand, because they want to sell their own pre-packaged corn that they import from Mexico. So, they move the fresh corn guy from his prime spot next to the store entrance to back behind the store next to the trash dumpster, and then they put one of their employees wearing a funny hat next to the store entrance to sell their Mexican corn. Discounted of course… and they hand out free baloons with every purchase. The public is annoyed, but they like the balloons.

And then eventually (of course), Wal-Mart drops all pretense and decides that they’re simply going to sell their own fruits and vegetables and such. So they raise the space rentals to the individual vendors to the point where it doesn’t pay for them to bother doing business in the first place… and hopefully by now you see where this is going.

Don’t shoot the messenger, but you’ve been had.  You see, you built the internet.  With your tax dollars, the military may have fleshed out the basics, but you built it, through your interest, your innovation, your involvement…. with every click, you made it.  And just like everything else, your government just sold it out from underneath you.  So don’t be surprised when in the not too distant future, when you fire up your lap-top you hear a voice you haven’t heard in years.  It will say something along the lines of “Welcome! ….to AOL 25.0.  You’ve got spam! … and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it!”

 

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