The End of the Internet by Ron Steinman

It seems that the broadcast networks won a major victory in 2010 when a Federal Appeals court said directly, that the Federal Communications Commission had no right legislate equal treatment for those who use the Internet. In its decision, a federal court may have closed off what until now has been an open Internet. With this ruling, we may be witnessing the end of net neutrality. So for the multi millions who use the Internet, tariffs and tolls, money paid for using the Web, may be the future of what until now has been free and something of a Wild West atmosphere on the World Wide Web. Wild West? Good or bad, creative or not, freedom of expression along with freedom to create and to be at the forefront of innovative technology, will surely suffer if the ruling stands.

The ruling that temporarily favors these giants is about greed, not free enterprise or creativity. All the providers of news, entertainment and sports, in the future will be free to charge different rates for different services that have been free on the Internet. After all, those companies provide the pipelines that allow entertainment and information to flow unimpeded to TV sets, laptops, tablets and all mobile devices. Therefore, they believe they can also control the flow and quality of what goes through the “pipes.” Once they accomplish that, meaning when they can control the content, they automatically quash the freedom to create. Those who freely used the Web in the past will know the meaning of clogged. No amount of Liquid Plumber will unclog the clutter, unless of course, you can pay the toll.

Comcast said it “remains committed to . . . open Internet principles. . . “ and that it will continue to work with the FCC, I remain skeptical that over time Comcast and the other broadcast entities will change how they think they will make money from increased broadband traffic. Now that Comcast completely controls NBC Universal, I am betting that the company will not be able to let us think of them as the good guy. Collusion is not the issue. Thinking the same as one’s competitor is not unusual when it comes to squeezing the public for every cent it can.

I am all for free enterprise. It is the American way. However, big broadcasters whose fingers are in every aspect of providing entertainment, sports and news seek to destroy one of our only remaining places where we can and do develop new ideas– the Internet. It does not mean that every idea that grows on the Web bursts forth like a rocket carrying the next greatest “thing.” Most of what is on the Internet is not worth talking about, thinking about or even looking at. It is worth repeating that the giants are mainly pipelines. Let me be absolutely clear, as clear as clear can be. It is about any media giant that seeks to control the boundaries of where our creativity can go. These businesses rarely create anything worthwhile for the audience. They push shows and events created by real producers of mostly popular entertainment over the airways through their “pipes” and are indifferent about the quality that slips onto our TV and PC screens. Whether these shows provide material created by people with artistic ideas is not my brief. I may not always agree with the much of what people produce. I often deride the quality of what I see on TV and on the Web, but at least those who produce it have the choice to do as they wish. Once a production is on TV and cable or just on the Web, the marketplace – meaning the audience – will decide how long a product survives. The audience will also have a choice of what it will watch or not. The viewer must be the final judge, not a court or even a regulatory agency.



Filed under New Media, Journalism, Film, TV, TV criticism

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