Net Neutrality and my Journey through Government Involvement in Communication

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I must admit, this is a subject I’ve yet to really comment on. In fact, I didn’t even really know what all this net neutrality business was all about. And since it’s such a hot button libertarian topic, I kind of felt that I should have at very least a working knowledge of what it means.

So I said fuck it, and looked it up…. Now I see what the fuss is about.

To show my empathetic side to my leftist friends, I get why you are losing it. I don’t condone it, but I get it.

You see, long ago in a galaxy far far away (Barre, Vermont in 2005) my writing had parlayed into a career in local television. Specifically, I was a producer and member of the board of directors for a local public access television station. I was making decent money (for a part-time job in Vermont) and making a name for myself in the Central Vermont region. As a board member, I learned a LOT about the big cable/internet companies; specifically Comcast and Time Warner.

Back then, Comcast and Time Warner were negotiating a joint purchase of now defunct cable provider Adelphia. While Adelphia did not control the company we were with, they controlled the region that started one town over…. And people were nervous.

The fear back then was that if Comcast and Time Warner continued buying up smaller providers that eventually the dreaded monopoly would cripple our choices and free speech. They (the board of directors) feared that maybe our parent company would be next.

But this huge telecommunications conquest never did come, did it?

Had I been a libertarian back then, I might have said back in 2005 what I am about to say now – the market and consumer know best.

During this meeting, it was brought to my attention (I think it was a memo) that one of those companies had the WORST customer service rating in the country.

In only a few short years I would find out why.

By 2009 I was effectively retired from television production. The recession had killed my sponsorship deals and I was only left with camera man jobs…not very good money. So I quit.

I picked a new career – food service – and moved to an area where I knew I could get experience (the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire).

The local economy was dependent on tourism. Tourists don’t want to cook their own food, so if you are a good cook living in this region you should have no problem finding work.

I got a shitty apartment and started a cashier job at a store. We will call it Low-Mart. Now back during this time of my life, I was not only still a moderate leftist – I was a criminal. And as bad as it might be to admit this, I am not going to lie to you… I was stealing cable.

And yet, even as I was stealing cable I came to realize one thing, this cable company SUCKED! No wonder it had the worst customer service. If I had been a real customer, I would have been calling everyday to report a new screw-up.

Two years later I moved to Burlington – no longer a criminal – and found some decent cable service. Other than a wrongful arrest there is nothing noteworthy here so we will fast-forward to 2012, when I moved to Woodstock, Vermont and re-entered food service and started brainstorming ways to make good money with my limited skills. I quickly called the cable company I used to steal from and got hooked up; and quickly regretted it.

Just basic cable and Internet cost me almost $100 a month. The choices were terrible. The service would just cut out sometimes. They were supposed to put a passcode on my Wi-Fi; but nope!

I endured for two more years….

In 2015 I checked out a local provider. Many of my friends and colleagues were using this service and loved it. Unfortunately, they botched the hook-up date and I canceled. Endured until early 2016 and then just cut off internet. That was a dark time… let’s move forward.

I called the local provider a second time… they botched the schedule again. I was pissed.

Finally, after one month they managed to hook up my Internet. I had to program all the equipment myself, but still, the service is great!

And that is why I do not understand why people SUPPORT the government interference that has allowed big companies to snuff out viable competition.

The market allowed me to go from $100 a month down to $35 a month. Add in my streaming services and I still pay less. I was puzzled – so  I asked my good friend, Johnny Lefty, for help.

Johnny showed up around noon on a Sunday afternoon. The smell of decaying leaves filled the late autumn air. We retired to my room with my dogs and smoked some weed. Then I sat down at my desk, turned on the recorder, and got to work.

He sat down across from me and got comfortable in my recliner. Then I began.

So Johnny, after reading what I have so far, how can you say that net neutrality is good?

Dude, it is about having a level playing field.

What the fuck are you talking about? Net neutrality has been around for two years and the big companies can still dwarf the smaller ones.

Than how come you’re now paying less for Internet? Do you think your current provider wouldn’t start charging you extra for Netflix? What about YouTube and your article submissions? What about porn?

I laughed.

I am paying less because someone decided to undercut the competition. I am pretty confident that if they wanted to keep getting my money they would not charge me more for that which I currently get.

He seemed puzzled, but only for a moment.

Bryce, name one time in your life that companies didn’t charge all they could. Fuck you over all they could, just for the almighty dollar.

My current job dude!

His next pause was legitimately due to having a lack of response. But after this brief moment he collected himself and asked me to continue.

You see Johnny, it is all about supply, demand, quality and price.

He shrugged with a look of question. I think they made an emoji out of it. I call it the “what the fuck” look/emoji. He clearly wanted a further explanation. I only paused because the weed was kicking my ass and I started thinking about a funny movie… possibly a Seth Rogan flick but not important.

Okay Johnny, it’s like this. He with the most, of the best, of that which I desire most, at the best price – gets my money. Failure to live up to that arrangement means I take my money elsewhere.

And you think that everyone thinks like that?

Unless they’re retarded, yes!

He laughed.

So now here I am, writing this article while Californication streams and Where The Buffalo Roam downloads on my VERY inexpensive Internet to my Apple TV. Because of a free market (in Vermont of all places) I can afford Internet, groceries, bills, my dad’s back and forth to the hospital, dog’s vet bills and still afford to buy a bag of weed so good it would make most of you shit.

The free market worked in a state that HATES fiscal conservatism, even as a Republican governs my state.

Giant telecommunications companies didn’t prevail in the mid 2000’s to monopolize the Internet. So in closing, I ask this…

What makes you think they will prevail now?

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Bryce Jackson