After having discussions in one of my classes about how the internet is used for more and more practical things such as applying for jobs, paying bills and even getting an education, a problem that came up is that reliable internet isn’t accessible to everyone. In fact, Curtis Brown’s situation isn’t too uncommon and it’s only a matter of time before having accessible internet is a civil rights issue. On the other side of the spectrum like my current dilemma which is overpaying for good internet/TV is that if I want to switch over to a competitor, its inferior in some sort of fashion. Whether it be slower speed, a data cap, or the fact that I have to bundle with TV when I just want internet to have “better” deal. Not only does my ISP have me by my wallet, I feel the customer support could be better. They know that if I try to leave for their competition, I will be left with inferior service so they don’t do anything to keep me as a customer. In the grand scheme of things, my ISP isn’t as bad as others.
Comcast, year after year has the worst consumer rating. AT&T had a internet preference program which would analyze your internet habits to serve you targeted ads. Some people wouldn’t have a problem with that except that the people who did it, had a lower bill to pay. You might think it’s better in other countries, well, depending on how much the government has concerns with privacy, they know that all action happens at the ISP level if they want some law in place. Like the UK who recently passed the Investigatory Powers Act that requires all ISPs (Internet service providers) and Wi-Fi Hotspots to retain all records of anyone in the UK accessing any web site. Further, the new law permits police agencies to access those previously private records without informing the subject of the investigation or any need to obtain further legal permission. Depending on how this works out for the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US gets on board with this with all the other different kinds of surveillance US has in place.
I understand that ISPs’ must comply regarding the law but the lines get blurry with how much the government gets involved. I always tell people, “forget what Google of other retailers know about you, be worried about your ISP”. They can overstep their boundaries when it started by tracking if you’re downloading content illegally and from there, other agendas set in. The least ISPs’ could is have your back according to the EFF. One company who does have your back and is making internet affordable and fast is Sonic (Sonic.net). They have a 5-star rating per the EFF and the CEO is part of CISPA. For now they are only available in California and some parts of the USA but the company is optimistic about growing to your area. To hear more about Sonic, check out this interview with The CEO on Triangulation.
There’s not much people can do actively except when an independent ISP comes into your town, support them no matter the conditions. Also, reach out to your city officials and make sure your they don’t have much red tape when an ISP does come into your town. When people care about internet service like they care about having affordable water or electricity, then the right movement will be in place.
Emerging Media Graduate Student