Silver Linings? Lack of Net Neutrality Could Mean a Return to the Printed Word for Information

Just as everyone seemed to assume that there was no way Donald Trump could ever take the presidency (and resultantly cause a spike in sales of 1984 as a means for emotional support), so too, did many hold high hopes for net neutrality remaining unrepealed after today’s vote by the FCC. Yet, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that whatever can go awry will go awry. Americans, accustomed to protesting as a means to express themselves and enact change, might actually go full-fledged revolution status on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision to pander to the major players now officially controlling the internet: Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, et. al.

Part of that revolution, one can only hope, involves a return to the ultimate free source for information: the library a.k.a. the printed word. As many have come to see the Internet as an inalienable right over the past twenty years since it has become an integral part of our everyday lives, it might be time to re-appreciate the one source of knowledge and enlightenment that has always been there for those truly seeking answers.

Not to say that we should all merely roll over and allow the past eight years of Obama’s positive and egalitarian legislation to slip away without a fight. But what we can do while battling that duel is discover renewed zeal for the printed word, truly available to anyone regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. From the literature you see strewn on the streets to the book exchange programs many neighborhoods enjoy employing, there are so many easy and money-free ways to access the written word in order to 1) gain new awareness and 2) take you out of the everyday existence you inhabit to attain solace and insight.

For most, the formerly anachronistic concept of bookstores, libraries and the tangible information contained therein is going to take time to get acquainted with (especially for Generation Z ilk), but in the face of potentially no other options that aren’t going to break one’s bank, these old institutions stand a fair chance at rekindled interest.

As Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated, “Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online… That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.” But if the Internet is now merely a place manipulated by the usual rich white men, then the printed word is certainly going to look all shiny again–far more useful to the average poverty-stricken person than the bescreened vortex they used to call the World Wide Web. For there’s nothing “World Wide” about an entity that financially discriminates. Much the way the publishing and small press world usually does (you can’t distribute materials without the dough to do so).

So as those expressing their dominion over the mediums we have so long relished for edification (this goes for those aforementioned publishing companies as well) limit our exposure to “controversial” and quality content, turn your eyes back toward the past, when, just as political oppression spurred great art, so, too did it drive people to more interactive means of gathering knowledge and engaging with their community. Unless you simply prefer to be one of those pompous types who finds yet another reason to loathe the United States and plan your move to Europe, where good food and Internet is free-flowing (though not in Italy’s case where the latter is concerned).

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