Living in the Wild, Wild West


Forgive me for sounding peevish, but some of us have not been very pleased at the direction that the Internet has been going of late.

We had hoped for the emergence of the public sphere, but, instead, we got corporate and government interests that moved in and now know everything about us.

We had hoped for a sense of interconnectedness (vasudhaiva kutumbakam and all that), but instead we got cybercascades of ever-polarizing discourse.

We had hoped for world peace, but even our domestic peace was shattered by unsolicited phone calls from Collin Jones (real name Rajendra Upadhyaya) trying to sell us cheaper service.

We had hoped for a sharing economy, but we got identity theft and hackers.
No surprise, then, that we found ourselves agreeing when President Obama referred to the Internet recently as the “wild wild west.” Oh sure, there are bright spots in the Internet. The cowboys are happy, but what about the Indians?

So, it was with a glad heart that I heard about the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) having released rules on net neutrality. The FCC rules ban “blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.” Take that, blockers, throttlers and cattle rustlers! (Yes, still staying with the wild west analogy).

While net neutrality as a concept sounds about as sexy as a single shade of grey, it affects all of us. The Internet must remain open. In the words of the FCC document, it must remain “open for commerce, innovation, and speech; open for consumers and for the innovation created by applications developers and content companies; and open for expansion and investment by America’s broadband providers.”

The Internet, for better or worse, is an integral part of our lives. And regardless of which side of the digital divide you find yourself, a digital “native” or a later-arriving immigrant, let’s keep the lanes of the information highway open for all, as we ride off into the sunset.

 Geetika Pathania Jain
 Geetika would like to dedicate this editorial to her mother.

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