Imagine the “loss” of the Internet as we know it. The party line alerts us to the consequences: declining speeds and rising costs of Netflix service, or the increased obstacles for a hypothetical, future YouTube or Skype—one that would have to compete for bandwidth with hard currency. An everyman scenario always comes later, as an aspiration: the church or small business that “gets the same treatment” as CNN or The New York Times.
It would be nice to think that this battle is a David and Goliath story, but instead its probably just a Goliath story. The open Internet of legend is already winnowed to the last chaff. The church and small business have already mostly lost the battle for viability and social influence—largely at the hands of the commercial Internet. To fear a “pay to play” Internet because it will be less hospitable to competition and innovation is not just to board a ship that’s already sailed, but to prepay your cruise vacation down the river Styx.
Choosing one set of disreputable billionaire overlords over another hardly counts as freedom, even less than choosing one brand of shampoo over another does. If unfettered Netflix delivery speed and the unbridled rise of “the next Zuckerberg” really do best exemplify the social advantage of common carriage online, then our commonest laments are also venial, not mortal ones. We’re choosing checkout lines, not foreclosing communal futures.
[More at the link.]