Just as those children who were born in the late fifties and brought up on television, we have a generation of children who were born in the early nineties and have been brought up on the internet. The digital age child has, for the most part, become increasingly dependent upon the digital world. That is, social media, digital games, and mobile cellphones. The cell phone has gone from being an adjunct to telephone communication to the personal identity of the millennial generation. One’s identity is a cell phone number, it is the handle on the video display on Facebook, it is in the speed dial lists and friends list. It is a generation of individuals whose only common denominator is the web of connections that defines their lives, their world. One wonders what would become of their individual and collective identities should the digital system ever fail, break down, no longer exist.
Net neutrality is that term for what so many demand but find it difficult to understand. Al Franken, a man who man his living as a third rate comedian and now as a third rate senator, is a progressive populist who advocates net neutrality. The internet carriers must be regulated by the FCC just as AT&T, GTE, and the rest of the old telephone service providers had been for a century. There must be equal access to the internet! The old telephone companies built the telephone networks and the going was difficult. First one had to secure a physical monopoly, an area of potential subscribers. Then one had to erect the poles and string the wire from a central telephone switch to the houses or businesses that wanted to subscribe to the service. There were public utility commissions that drew up the regulations for the telephone companies to abide by. And the FCC held these corporations to a high level of service. One of the intents of the PUC and FCC was the affordability of service for residential subscribers. So the service providers instituted a two tier price structure. I order to keep the residential rates low enough, the rates for business customers were almost doubled. The other intent was that the calling party paid. This is not a universal ideal for in the UK both the calling party and the called party paid for each call or connection. And today we see in the cell phone business that both parties to a call are paying for it. If one has a cell phone and only buys minutes instead of monthly service, every time some one calls you it costs you minutes.
Television went from the regulated air waves, that is there were assigned radio frequencies that could only support four major broadcasting services and several minor stations at a much higher frequency. This was the VHF and UHF spectrums. Then some people had the idea of carrying broadcasts on a special cable. Much like the telephone network, Cable Television had a distribution office connected by special cable to the individual residential subscribers. Because the service was analog there was a limit to the number of channels the cable could carry. True, catv could have used far better equipment and delivered upwards of 740 channels but that equipment would have been expensive to install for each customer and expensive to maintain. So the residential customers had a choice, they could continue to receive the “Free” service over the airwaves or they could pay for more channels from the catv companies.
Now the airwaves were not free. The broadcasting company had to apply for space in the radio spectrum and pay for it through a yearly license and then pay for the equipment used to broadcast the content. There were others who held out their hands. The technicians who maintained the equipment, those who were the talking heads, those who helped to make the advertisements that would be shown on air, the sales people who sold time for advertisements. The station then had to buy content and it had better be popular else no one would watch their content. Unlike magazines who had to maintain a subscriber list to prove to an advertiser how many people actually bought that magazine and who may actually read or see the advertisements, television could not do that. They used surveys and rating systems. Across the country the Nielsen Ratings Service installed their box on individual television sets and recorded what programs were watched. Families were chosen that the ratings service thought to be both random and representative of the American viewers. From this one could discover how many viewer were watching any program and thus what one could charge for advertisements during that time period.
The internet came about in the early sixties. The department of defence wanted a secure and reliable network of communications and called upon a couple of universities, manufactures, and telephone companies to make one. The result was ARPANET. Universities soon discovered that they could share information with each other, with commercial research laboratories, and other groups of interest. With the advent of personal computers researchers found that they could use telephone lines for exchanging information. The development of the telephone modem led to the development of FAX and thus one could use that same modem device to exchange information digitally. The quest went on for higher modem speeds but the basic telephone cable wires put a limitation on that speed. Then there was the development of DSL and higher speeds were obtained. Finally the cable companies discovered digital transmission and then fiber optic cables. This became a heavy investment since new cable had to be placed and new equipment had to be installed. The phone companies followed suit and replaced much of their trunk and branch cable with fiber optics and installed new equipment. All of this new digital capability comes at a cost.
For the moment, content providers do not share that cost in the new networks and their updating. For a content provider it is a free ride. You want to make millions, count on the FCC to keep things the same. One can create a website, buy some prono cheap, and broadcast it on the web. Every time a viewer clicks onto your site you get money from the network providers. If you are Netflix, you can charge people who have internet service and download movies and other video. The network pays Netflix for this privilege. So why would you, a catv company, who is selling content by way of subscription services to your customers want Netflix to benefit through unfair competition? Netflix has no investment in the physical network structure. The only cost to them is their own equipment and content, just like a porno provider. The question will become that of who ultimately pays. The answer is the subscriber. One must subscribe to an internet service unless one is able to use the free wifi connections of Starbucks, the public library, or others. That subscription costs the subscriber a fee.
Al Franken can talk all he wants about the right to an internet connection but one still has to string the cable, install the equipment, and provide the interconnections. That costs a lot of money and no network provider will do that non gratis. If not the scriber then the taxpayer will foot the bill. Al can talk about internet neutrality all he wishes but there is no free lunch. Progressives, liberals, and populists are all idiots, they have never figured out that their supposed free lunch is always paid by someone. That brings us to social media such as Facebook.
I have never liked Facebook. My stepdaughter and her family love the site. They post their comments and photos and what not. They play the farm game, which I understand is one way to wrangle money out of people sine one must buy orchards and tractors and whatever. So I acquired my own page and put up a few comments and posted comments on their pages. I didn’t receive much feedback. You see, I am a letter writer by temperament. Early on in my life, from teenager to young adult, I didn’t like writing letters. Perhaps it comes with age, perhaps as one grows older one has more to say and writing comes easier. But Facebook does not encourage such an approach to communications. Instead one clicks the like button or throw a couple of words about the latest photo (oh, how cute or wow or amazing) or post. And the posts are very short and often filled with emoticons and other junk. Our lives are express through language but when we shortcut that expression we lose content, we lose meaning. Our Facebook page becomes an empty expression of a very vacuous life, a way of not living.
That would be bad enough but unfortunately Facebook does not exist to foster social relationships but advertisement dollars. And when you thought you had some measure of privacy and security on that site the news comes that your personal information is being sold to advertisers. Now you have the invasive advertisements popping up and your email account is flooded with unwanted advertisement mailers. At one point I was being inundated with over one hundred unwanted advertising fliers a day. Now Facebook wants to provide your daily news, the news you want to read or hear. Facebook sees itself as being able to tailor news content to the individual and in doing so provide a better targeting for advertisers. But why stop there? Why not let Facebook become your enterprise solution? Do you really trust these people? Will they keep your corporate secrets or will those secrets leak out? And what about all those employee pages? Gossip and posts of dissatisfaction will circle the business regardless of how inappropriate. Yet the corporate executives may be faced with first amendment suits for improper censorship. This is a business model of absolute stupidity. I suppose the ultimate insult wold be to supply advertisements for your competition’s products on your corporate enterprise facebook system. One can only wonder.
So our digital age continues and we become more dependent upon it. But what happens when the big reset comes? And make no mistake, it will come. For this digital age requires vasts amount of money to exist. It eats up vasts amounts of energy and resources. And it had limits to its own growth. With the world debt that is trillions multiplied by three of four digits and can’t possibly be repaid while the debt service is approaching impossibility, What happens when massive defaults are cascading through our house of cards finance and economic order? When there is a choice of putting food on the table for one’s family, the need to put a roof, any roof, over their heads, will you opt for internet connection and social media? Very few people see the problems of the future and fewer still see the eventual solutions. There were predictions that if the world engaged in nuclear wars civilization would be blasted back to the stone age. So far we have not yielded to the temptation of engaging in fire and brimstone. But we have given in to selling our futures far beyond our abilities to repay. e have engaged in our own destruction to a degree that the proverbial stone age may be upon us sooner than we think. We have become far too dependent on technology to live without it. That are the sins of the fathers that will be visited on the sons and daughters.