Last week I invested one whole day in the routine task of filing, and discovered that filing is a unique form of time travel. By sorting through my accumulation of notes, articles, research, ideas and drafts, I clarified the present and set my priorities in order. And in dealing with the past—tossing what was over and done with, archiving what seemed important to keep—I got a wake-up call about the future.
That wake-up call came in the form of a file from 2007. I had kept it because it was a record of a media change that I felt would have a powerful effect on public debate and discussion. In reviewing the newspaper articles and letters in the file, I was reminded of why it’s so important that we all act on, speak up, do something about causes we care about. By looking at the past, I saw the end of Net neutrality looming in our future.
In 2007, when I first moved moved to Corvallis, Oregon, there were four cable news networks right next to each other—CNN was on channel 44, MSNBC on 47, FOX News on 48, and Northwest News on 49. Today, three of those channels are exactly where they were seven years ago. But where MSNBC once was, you will find the Weather Channel.
In October 2007, as the Presidential race was heating up, Comcast moved MSNBC, with its decidely liberal bent, to Channel 128. That move meant that Comcast subscribers who had previously had MSNBC as part of their basic package would have to begin paying extra for access to those channels at the higher end of the number range. Comcast officials claimed the change was “… an upgrade to keep up with technology and customer preference.”
I wrote Comcast and told them that this move was definitely not one that I “preferred.” In a Letter to the Editor, another Corvallis resident, Elaine Cull, put it bluntly: “Comcast lets the right-wing FOX broadcast to the masses undisturbed, while fans of MSNBC have to get a special device and pay extra for their trouble. You don’t have to be an expert on methane to know when something stinks.”
I don’t know how many of us complained to Comcast or the FCC. I do know there was no organized outcry. Comcast left the change in place, and FOX is still broadcasting to the masses undisturbed. For those who can’t afford access to alternate views, there’s always FOX.
Now, Comcast and Verizon are pushing the FCC to end Net neutrality and give us a “tiered” Internet, where certain providers—those who have the money to pay for it—would get a designated fast lane, while the rest us putter along in the slow lane. If the websites you visit can’t afford the toll, too bad. You can just drum your fingers and wait. I’m no expert on methane but, to quote Ms. Cull: This stinks.
In a democracy, if we don’t defend what is ours, what is ours becomes usurped by the vested interests who want unlimited power, money, and access. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet the head of the FCC @TomWheelerFCC. Call 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senators. Let your Senators know you expect them to preserve the open Internet. Let your voice be heard. Now.