Keep your corporate hands off my Internet

By Corinne Elicone

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(Free Press/flickr)

(Free Press/flickr)

On Feb. 26, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in favor of an open Internet. In other words, the jury found that the Internet should be considered a public utility subject to regulation by the government.

This might seem contradictory at first; does an “open” Internet means stricter government regulation? Yes, this regulation applies to the Internet providers attempting to charge a higher amount for faster Internet connection.

For example, if your provider is Verizon and you don’t pay extra for the faster Internet plan, the company will throttle your Internet speeds, making websites load slower or even block websites all together.

This attempt to privatize the Internet follows a common trend of United States services. Since the 1980s, government regulation on corporations has become increasingly lenient. Corporations have been given more power to interfere in consumers’ lives, such as their newfound ability to affect government elections through super PACs.

As American citizens, we are told that we live in a time of economic freedom and choice. You can have an Android phone or iPhone, Verizon or Comcast and the list of “choices” goes on. But this is the illusion of consumer choice. The differences between these services and products are trivial and superficial. They roughly all cost the same, for the same awful service.

Corporations, especially cable companies and airlines, have been merging into large conglomerates and therefore have the ability to set prices for goods and services. This used to be known as a trust – separate corporations agreeing on set prices in an effort to avoid the mechanism of capitalism, which requires companies to compete for the consumers’ choice by having the best priced and highest quality product.

There is no “trust busting” Teddy Roosevelt to save the day in the U.S. currently. Largely, Congress ignores this issue when members aren’t actively passing laws that give corporations more power to take advantage of the consumer. Furthermore, the average American consumer decides to put up with all of these companies’ horrible services because they feel as though they have no other choice.

Despite Comcast having the lowest customer satisfaction rating of any Internet provider in the U.S., according to Jonathan Berr at “CBS Money Watch,” it also boasts the highest percentage of customers in the market.

Jim Edwards of Business Insider demonstrates that Comcast alone corners 40 percent of the market, whereas every other Internet provider in the U.S. accounts for the remaining 60 percent. No other individual company even comes close to that percentage.

Why is it that consumers are staying with companies that they are dissatisfied with? Chris Morran at The Consumerist said the answer is that many customers have no other option.

If they live in an area, perhaps rural, that is served largely by Comcast, it is possible there is no access to any other Internet provider or cable company. If our country truly prides itself on its capitalist ideals, we should all be horrified by this situation.

This is why the FCC’s ruling to keep the Internet an “open” resource not subject to corporate privatization is so important. Ask anyone what the greatest and most influential invention of the past two centuries was and there is a good chance they will answer with “the Internet.” It provides access to millions of sources of information right from our living rooms, classrooms and boardrooms.

Never before has the younger generation been so widely informed on the issues of the world. Imagine if this resource was reserved only for the people who could afford it?

Corrupt government is not our only worry in this world, despite what many would have us believe. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that laissez-faire capitalism always results in healthy competition. It does not and these attempts to charge extra for a decent and necessary service are a testament to that mistake.

Corinne Elicone is a Collegian correspondent and can be reached at [email protected]