Verizon Communications is in the midst of a heated court battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the outcome could set the world back a few decades.
Verizon, which was ranked as one of the fastest Internet providers and one of the top providers in the world, is asking the federal government to allow providers to slow or even block content.
Looming even larger is the fact that Verizon would partner with certain companies, such as ESPN, to provide packages of Internet, a la cable bundles or a pay-per-view-style Internet where you pay so much money per term and get just that content on your computer.
These requests go against the former net neutrality rulings that the broadband providers are detached from information sent throughout the Internet. This case also provides a bleak preview into how potential regulations could affect our everyday routine of surfing the web.
At the core, Verizon is asking that they have some control over the content it provides over their service. The company is also asking that its customers, who already pay Internet and information delivery service subscription fees, pay more for specialized content, tailored to the customers’ wants, according to Bill Synder of InfoWorld.
Simply put, Verizon is getting greedy.
Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam more than tripled his compensation in 2011, according to an article from CNET. In total, McAdam brought home $23.1 million, up from $7.2 million in 2010.
At the same time, the company made more than $24 billion in 2011 in pre-tax U.S. income, according to The Washington Times, paid no taxes and claimed a federal refund of $1.3 billion over the two years prior. In 2012, Verizon reported a $1.7 billion profit in 2012.
On the business front, Verizon is the hungry sea monster with an unwavering appetite. In the everyday, a decision in Verizon’s favor would only destroy what has become normal for much of the globe.
To add to that, Verizon is claiming that it has a right to free speech and “providers possess editorial discretion.”
The newsroom aspect in Verizon’s argument goes against the Constitutional right of freedom of the press. If the FCC backs Verizon, the provider would be a publisher-type company to media outlets that they want on certain packages. If they don’t agree with content, they wouldn’t have to provide it.
Gone would be the days of local newspapers, because Verizon wants you to buy a package of websites. Does that mean I would have to buy a package of 225, The Advocate, The Times-Picayune and Tiger Rag to get my Baton Rouge information online? Would these publications then have to spend more money to be a part of these specialized packages?
Already, publications are asking customers for subscription fees. Think of it on a small scale: customers with Gannett-operated newspapers already pay to view unlimited articles from localized newspaper sources.
Would they have to pay more on top of those fees to visit a website for the average 30-second pageview?
The wealth of meaningful and meaningless information that we digest on a daily basis would be locked and forbidden without proper permission and payment with this model.
What would a person have to do to use Google? Then, if you are able to use Google and you search an innocent term like “small business” and found an article, what if Verizon blocks the site or says it’s not in your package?
Will I have to pay to use Facebook now? And what if someone posts a link to an article, but I can’t read it because of my subscription?
The scenarios and questions are never-ending, and there’s a lot of confusion as to what Verizon wants to police. But make no mistake, the corporation wants to police what it delivers on the Internet to its customers.
Major industry players like CEOs of these now powerful websites that were once small businesses should come out against the ruling.
Verizon’s chess move is a ballsy statement: “We’re providing a service you enjoy. We’re making money, but we want more.” The company didn’t create the Internet though. They didn’t create the Google Chromes, Internet Explorers, Mozilla Firefoxes and Safaris. Yet, Verizon wants a piece of their pies.
Bill Gates, if you’re reading, you should probably hold a press conference saying they can’t regulate what you helped create if the issue gets out of hand.
Add in the current world of Internet piracy. Can you imagine what would happen in the worlds of 4chan, the Anonymous sect and Wikileaks factions if this deal went through? The Internet is like physics, less then 10% of people understand how it really works in terms of hacking and building that world. Because the Internet is such a powerful tool for delivering information, those who do understand it can manipulate it in such a way that would tear these corporations a part or at least make them look like a fool and back off.
Gone will be the days of disseminating need-to-know information as quickly as possible to those who need to know it, unless you’re rich and can climb over the wall of restrictions that Verizon provides in its newfound knowledge of editorial discretion.
The only content that will get through on the web will be the safest, blandest material. Think long and hard about what you digest, because if Verizon gets what it wants, you won’t see that content anymore.
Local bands that make money via DIY services like Bandcamp? Outta here. That blogger who writes jokes about political decisions or posts .gifs on Tumblr? Gone. The smaller bodies—be it businesses, personalities, startups—who were trying to make something happen using a service that creates opportunities? Done.
More than anything, this decision, should it go through, shouldn’t be a reminder of big business power—it should rally customers into giving these providers a disconnection notice.
An FCC decision in favor of Verizon’s greed will only be business suicide, and only turn us back to a time when people believed in War of the Worlds-type fiction.
To manipulate and muzzle everyday life would only frustrate a culture of people that knew the power of having the world in its hands. When you take that power away, the results can only be staggering steps back into a technology-free past, free of discussion, knowledge and information gathering that makes the world spin.
Boil those components down to their core elements, and you have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.