Everyone’s thinking that Net Neutrality will die in a blaze of sudden “New Subscription rates/teirs,” in which suddenly you’ll have to pay X amount for minimal access, Y amount for “greater service,” and some greater amount for full service. In short, an immediate death that everyone will have to deal with almost immediately.
I doubt it. Not that we’ll in the end have to meet up with such an end-point, but by the time it happens we’ll be ready and willing; probably even happy to know what our limits are. We’re talking Boiling Frog Theory here – drop in the boiling water, frog jumps; drop in lukewarm water, frog boils as water is warmed up. (Yes, I know the analogy is messed up. Everyone understands it as such, so it works.)
Anyway, here’s what I think will happen:
- Pages will start disappearing from the net. First it will be the mp3 download sites and web pages that start disappearing. Then the conspiracy sites. Then those sites with such wild stories that only a few odd people will believe them will disappear. Then, more and more other pages will disappear.
- Pages will suddenly start taking longer to download. Except for certain update pages for programs, pages which are favored for their propagandistic purposes or because they’re too popular to shut or slow down, the internet will suddenly go slower and slower. You won’t necessarily see it noted on the CPU, but you’ll notice it as slower times.
- Search sites will take the lessons of self-censorship they learned from China and start disappearing sites from their search listings, based on what information your computer gives them. You use Google or Yahoo on ATT, you get what Google or Yahoo thinks ATT, the government, certain corporations and other pressure groups aren’t bothered enough about to ban; same for Comcast, Verizon and whatever other company you know (just replace ATT with that company). Occasionally a website will slip through the net, but you won’t be able to click through to the site.
- In about six months or a year, people’s habits will be affected. Some will seek out dark nets to find wha they want, whereas the majority will end up limiting their wants and desires to whatever the web gives them. No uptick in bookstore or record store sales; people will by this point be proven to have been trained to suck their wants off the internet. Those who want what’s now been banned by the companies will try to work around the bars, but their efforts will fall short.
- The information on the internet will change. Wikipedia is taken over by “independent” folks paid for by corporation and other corporatized movements so they do their editing 10 hours/day, 7 days/week (six if you go to church on Sunday). Xenu.net is taken over by Scientology, becomes a depository of all things unsavory on the internet (and is banned). Code words suddenly get placed on blogs without the writer’s intent; suddenly the only readers of certain blogs are the writers and certain folks who are surreptitiously marked as “possible enemy of the corporate state.”
- After a year or so of reducing access and greater problems with the internet, you’ll start seeing advertisements stating “Want More of the Internet?” with tiered pricing. The tiered pricing won’t go for speed, but for access; the more you pay the more you can do. Basic will cost X amount, access to movies more, the ability to downolad mp3 by companies not releasing them (read: bribe money to the riaa) even more than that, and the ability to download all the porn you want will be even more than that.
- Porn goes unimpeeded. After all, there’s a need for blackmail, and what better way to do it than for some dodgy pictures to be placed on a netbook by its user? Keep up those habits, and you have people you can control…even if they make an effort to remove it (“Erase” only means “remove the pointers to the file.” That’s why the Defense Department tells its people to physically destroy the memory when a computer is decommissioned). The higher price for porn only means they KNOW who wants their porn and who sneaks it (and which to which device, let’s not forget).
- As people sign up for their “no more net neutrality” plans, the screws get tightened. Certain sites fall apart due to lack of visitors, others taken over and their content changed (some radically, some incrementally, some subtly).
- Other aspects of the new plans show themselves. Suddenly ATT/Comcast/Verizon/whomever-you-use-to-view-the-internet is given the right (and the responsibility – let’s not forget that a government without feedback from the people becomes its own force) to keep track of what you’re looking at. No more Privacy, even as the choices shrink down.
In short, we’ll end up embracing the death of Net Neutrality. We’ll let the corporations dictate what we cannot see (and thus, what we can) because we’ll “choose” to do so. Even when the choice given becomes “Let us give you the web we want you to have, or you get nothing. Not even email;” we’ll end up celebrating that choice, embracing the limits to our world that it implies and singing about the joys of “the consumer society that brought us this freedom of choice.”
At least that’s what the official line will be. Whether we’ll get beyond it is another matter.