I was very happy to see so many people up in arms and motivated about yesterday’s terrible net neutrality decision, but there is an aspect of this debacle I very much want to caution people about:
The big cable companies, their lobbyists (like Ajit Pai), and the Trump administration are trying very hard to push this line about how “nothing will change” and sadly, they are going to be right. At first.
In the coming year we will undoubtedly hear Trumpists and the conservative media gloat about how everybody got all freaked out for nothing and how our online experiences and internet bills are still pretty much the same. They will call us snowflakes and hysterics.
There is an old adage about how you can put a frog in water and slowly raise the the temperature to a boil and the frog won’t notice until it is too late. Many of the worst policies of the US government have unfolded in a similar way.
People still tout Ronald Reagan as some sort of economic visionary, but in reality the American middle class is still hurting from his policies 30 years later. Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall in the 90s and it didn’t contribute to an economic collapse until 2008. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which constitutes perhaps the biggest ongoing threat to the health and stability of our democracy (aside from Trump and Putin, I guess), was ruled on in 2010 but its catastrophic effects have been such a slow burn that it is hard for activists, watchdogs, or anyone in the media to communicate any gripping narrative about it.
Sometimes the worst things are unnoticed boiling frog water.
Yesterday was just big telecom lighting the burner under the internet. It may take years before it ruins anything.
We must continue to fight for net neutrality out of principle. We must do so because it is what the experts who literally built the internet as we know it recommend. We must fight for net neutrality because we know what kind of technological infrastructure our country and a free world need and deserve.
Net neutrality is not merely a matter of short sighted UX concerns or about getting nickel and dimed on our cable bills. It is about how our society and the world functions and communicates.