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An Internet for the Few?

What the impending end of net neutrality means for independent news outlets like this one.

Jud Lounsbury Dec 13, 2017

One of former U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone’s favorite slogans used to be, “I’m for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers.”

When Donald Trump was running for President, his slogan could have been: “I’m the Rockefeller for the little feller.” At every event, he extolled the virtues of being a fat cat who essentially switched sides to work for the mice.

“What self-funding means is that I’m not controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. I’m not controlled by lumber. I’m not controlled by electric. I’m not controlled by anybody—I’m controlled by you,” Trump said during a 2016 rally in Racine, Wisconsin.

As for everybody else, Trump said, “They’re politicians. They get their money from companies . . . . They’re not going to do the right thing for you. They’re going to do the right thing for the [foreign] country and the right thing for their lobbyist and the right thing for their special interest, but they’re not going to do the right thing for you. Believe me. I know it.”

At another rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Trump declared that, unlike Hillary Clinton, he was “taking on big business and big media and big donors. We’re taking them on for you.”

And remember how investment bank Goldman Sachs had, in Trump’s estimation, “total control over Hillary Clinton” and none over Trump? “I don’t want their money,” he said. “I don’t need their money.”

Now, only ten months into Trump’s presidency, it’s obvious just how hollow Trump’s economic populism was. His administration is chock-full of Goldman Sachs executives and corporate executives. And even though corporate profits are already at record highs, Trump is on the verge of signing a tax-cut package that will overwhelmingly benefit large corporations and the one percenters who control them.

Imagine a world where only deep pockets can afford to pay for fast internet.

Recently, the Trump Administration announced new rules to let restaurant owners intercept and keep a waiter’s tips and allow airlines to not disclose baggage fees. Oh, and you know that long list of fine print in credit card agreements? Trump wants to allow companies to use this language to screw you over and then prevent you from suing in response.

But all that is small potatoes compared to what Team Trump is about to drop on us in a few days when it deep-sixes “net neutrality” rules.

Right now, the internet allows users to “surf” wherever they want, with all sites having equal access—accessibility is, by rule, neutral. Imagine, though, if only some sites were accessible with just a click, while others took forever to load?

That’s soon to be the new normal. Without net neutrality rules, which Trump’s appointees to the Federal Communications Commission are poised to destroy, internet providers will be able to sell accessibility in a way similar to how supermarkets sell shelf space to big companies.

For example, let’s say you like to buy things on Etsy, but your internet provider doesn’t get any “shelf space” money from Etsy, but it does from Amazon and e-Bay. Surfing on Amazon and e-Bay will be really quick, while Etsy would be really slow.

And it’s not just buying stuff that will be affected. Most people now get the lion’s share of their news from the internet. Imagine a world where only the deep pockets can afford to pay for fast load times. What would happen to small, independent outlets, like the one you’re reading right now?

Almost every facet of our lives is tied up with the internet. More people now watch TV via the internet than from cable providers. It’s how most modern communication takes place.

And all that is about to fundamentally change.

It’s hard to imagine a better example of a President siding with the Rockefellers over the little fellers, than with the gutting of net neutrality. It’s the coup de grâce of a President whose promise to fight for those little fellers has been exposed time and again as a lie.

This article originally appeared in The Progressive. It is republished here with permission. Support independent media.

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Photo credit: Joseph Gruber.