December 21, 2006 11:04am CST
Being a cynic and, therefore, a natural skeptic is tough at times. Essentially you are stuck in a perpetual Catch-22 scenario. This is especially true when it comes to conspiracy theories. Sometimes you hear one and say to yourself, “hmm, that sounds like it could be valid.” Much of them involve large corporations doing things just for themselves to the detriment of everyone else. As a cynics you may think to yourself, “this sound valid. Sure, corporation would only think about themselves and just think about the bottom line and I bet they would sacrifice their own grandmother if it would improve their bottom line.” You may even have first hand experience with this concept. However, just as you think that you have to think, “at the same time the conspiracy theorists are wanting to get everyone on their side to justify their existence and so, of course, they are must present a compelling argument to do so. Therefore, their evidence must be suspect.” In general this creates a kind of situation where you are perpetually stuck between two opposing forces convinced everyone is a jerk and no one wants to do anything good for anyone. So, it is with this in mind that I came across this idea of “Internet Neutrality.” As it turns out, it’s something that has been brought up on shows like “The Daily Show.” Of course “The Daily Show” also has a pronounced liberal/libertarian bent so you have to keep that in mind as well. I will attempt to explain what this in case you are like me and coming a little late to this particular party. Apparently the best way to explain it is to think of the internet like a pipeline between the computer and the Net. Supposedly, the way things are arranged now every website has the same chance as any other website to become popular or not become popular because they should, in theory, be able to get to your computer when you go there as fast as any other website. This, to me, seems like a over-simplification and patently untrue, but this seems to be the argument those who are pro-neutrality are trying to use in their favor. Because each website can use the same tools as any other and can be downloaded at the same rate as any other this achieves some kind of internet utopia. It creates “Net Neutrality.” According to those who are pro-neutrality the big internet service providers are trying to set up a second pipeline. Essentially this second pipeline will be for various partner who would pay the internet service providers large amounts of money for their sites to show up more and download faster than the regular schlubs out there who don’t pay those fees. As you might imagine this creates a caste system on the internet with the wealthy on the surface and the lower-end folks slaving away in the mines and the machines beneath the city (for a clearer idea of this analogy please see the silent film “Metropolis.”) Now, here is where the cynic in me starts to debate. OK, it seems perfectly logical to me that huge, unthinking and uncaring corporations who are always looking for a way to screw someone over to make an extra dime would want to find a way to charge huge fees for people to use their services and make their websites more noticeable or to download faster. On the other hand, I also believe in free enterprise and have an idea that there are a lot of people out there who truly do believe every corporation really is truly evil and has no place in the world. I believe that corporations, as a whole, are usually evil but I do know that they tend to have some caring and compassionate people working for them. I also use the internet. I have a website. I try to sell my books on this thing. I certainly want to have the same chance as someone who has a ton of money and a major publisher behind him or her to market their books. I can currently delude myself into believing that the only reason I have not started a groundswell of support for my books is because I just haven’t spent enough time marketing and not because my website has anything wrong with it. So, in the end, I guess I support the idea of Net Neutrality. I like the free-wheeling feel of the internet as it stands these days. In a lot of ways the internet is like the ole west. You have to be tough to walk the streets of the net. You have to be able and willing to defend yourself at a moment’s notice. Yes, I am being overly melodramatic but I also feel there is some truth to the idea. It is a true open marketplace. I have to wonder, though, are the big internet service providers really ganging up on the little guys? According to some websites there have been measures defeated in Congress to try to create that second pipeline. Of course, just because it was defeated in the U.S. what would stop some company from doing the same thing in another country? If you have an interest in this you might want to check out www.savetheinternet.com. Of course, this is the site that is pro-neutrality and has that liberal spin to it. While I am a cynic I am also, generally speaking, liberal about a lot of things so my tendency is to take the liberal stance over the conservative one. I am also on record here many times talking about how heartless and soulless big companies are. I think the internet should just sort itself out. Those who are determined and want to sick with it will, I think, eventually find some success. That bubble that burst in the 90s sorted out a lot of the useless junk and people who didn’t have a clear plan. I know because I worked for a large number of them at the time. In each case I entered an office full of hope and excitement but no clear idea of how to make money or how to move forward. So, what you had was a company running all over the country and spending thousands and thousands of dollars in travel expenses alone with no clear idea how more money was going to come in. I even worked for one company that had big ideas about stock options that ended up being worth a few pennies when things went sour. Such things are destined to happen when you set out in a new frontier. The people who ran out into the west looking for gold most of the time came back empty-handed. Those who had an actual plan and did some research and had just a little bit of luck and determination usually found a way to make it. Maybe they didn’t find gold but they found out you could make a lot of money selling gold mining supplies to nuts looking for gold. In short, I think internet neutrality is a good thing. You can send off an e-mail to your congress-persons on that website. It doesn’t take long to do. It’s nice to say hello to those people anyway. Sometimes they need a reminder of who they really look for. Of course, I am rather cynical about all of that anyway. Bryan W. Alaspa’s novel Dust is available in print and eBook format on his website www.bryanalaspa.com and www.amazon.com.