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I'm Andrew. I write about the past and future of tech, music, media, culture, art, and activism. This is my blog.

Net Neutrality, The Consolidation of American Media, and you.

Posted: December 14, 2017

Here is the situation. Disney now owns the majority of Fox’s assets, making them the single largest owner and supplier and controller of english language pop-culture anywhere in the world. Rupert Murdoch is now the largest shareholder at Disney. Rupert Murdoch is, IMO, the reason Trump was elected. The Trump administration has removed Net Neutrality protections. This is their latest victim, after destroying many banking consumer protections, and allowing airlines to lie about, or refuse to disclose, the baggage costs.

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What does the Net Neutrality repeal mean for you?

That remains to be seen. Most likely:

  • stricter data caps on home internet use,
  • throttling of bandwidth intensive activities, and peer-to-peer connections
  • a “fast lane” being established in which some content providers pay an additional fee so that their traffic is served more quickly (and therefore a “slow lane” in which content providers that didn’t pay protection money have their bandwidth artificially capped.)
  • Your ISP can also, if they so choose, charge for access to specific websites seperate from the internet at large, or block access to some websites, services, or protocals outright.

So, to sum up:

  • The already very concentrated American Media landscape just got more concentrated.
  • Rupert Murdoch, who is responsible for Fox News and The Sun, now has the largest stake in Disney.
  • Regulations preventing ISPs from abusing customers or restricting access to/from certain content providers have been killed.
  • Oh! And Comcast (the largest ISP in the country, IIRC) is also one of the biggest producers of media in the country.
  • Most cities have signed exclusive contracts with Comcast, Verizon, ATT, or Cox saying that they are the only ones who can be ISPs in their cities.
  • Thanks to the w3c, all web browsers now have a bit in them that makes it a potential felony to do security research on web browsers, so even if we save Net Noot, the web is no longer safe in my opinion.

Comcast, and the other ISPS, have a monopolistic holds over many regions, as a result of the contracts that municipal governments have signed, and now have an incentive to make their content (or the content of companies they are friendly with) easier to access, and to make their competitors content harder to access, by throttling connections, charging additional fees, or outright blocking content. Consumers can’t “Vote with their dollar” against ISPs that take these actions because of these companies regional monopolies.

Coupled with the Disney/Fox acquisition, this also means that the illusion of choice in media companies is quickly eroding, revealing the pulsing writhing oligopoly sitting at the top.

It’s a real bad situation.

So what are we going to do about it?

First,

the american court system can and very well might! stop this Net Noot change, at least for a little while.

So, you know, pay attention for that.

Second, Congress can actually fix Net noot.

They won’t, unless we make a lot of noise, but they can. So make a lot of noise. Call your congresscritters. Express your distaste.

Third, Pay Attention To Where Your Media Comes From.

Know who made it. Know who’s in it. Know who is profiting from your attention. Know who is injecting their opinions in to your brain via this media.

This is not easy, but it is essential.

Fourth, Free Media!

If you want to watch a movie, or a TV show, and you don’t like the people that made it, consider methods of obtaining that show for free. (And I’m not talking Netflix. Netflix is part of the problem. Netflix is responsible for DRM in web browsers) Libraries have DVD collections, and DVD ripping is pretty easy.

Help your friends stop spending money with major media companies by whatever means available.

A sidebar about Piracy

I’m not going to outright advocate for media piracy, but I do want to talk about it for a moment. Media Piracy is the number one thing that most media companies hate about the internet.

They introduce DRM (like EME) in the name of combatting piracy. They take away people’s internet access in the name of combatting piracy. They throttle legitimate peer-to-peer connections in the name of fighting piracy. Piracy will be used to excuse all manner of bad behavior in the coming months and years.

They say that piracy takes money out of their pockets. According to most studies, it does not.

But it could.

Without netnoot, ISPs can throttle our peer-to-peer traffic and outright block websites like The Pirate Bay. That’ll make traditional copyright infringement more difficult.

But all is not without hope!

First up, theres Tribbler. I found out about this thing today, and I don’t yet know enough to say if it’s worth using, or safe to use, or if it will stand a chance in the face of a lack of Net Noot. But it’s an interesting platform that I will continue to watch and explore.

Second, Are you familiar with The Little Free Library concept?

Hold that in your mind, and combine it with this raspberry pi based system or with the Cuban “Weekly Package

I’m sure you can see where that’s headed.

Fifth, Organize!

Organize online and off! Organize outside of facebook, outside of any centralized platform, whenever possible. Facebook is part of the problem.

For the time being we can still rely on, email, mastodon, and chat apps. But also try to organize in person, or over the phone whenever you can.

Sixth, Publish!

Control your own media, because controlling your own media will help us starve the companies that are screwing us.

Zines will save the day. (No really!) even if we lose the ability to spread things quickly over the internet, we can still ensure that they make it all over the country by printing and mailing or hand-delivering zines. I know this sounds silly, but it’s actually pretty powerful.

Make a simple booklet in word, or whatever. Print it out on a cheap laser printer. Distribute it as far and as wide as you can.

This can be a book of poems, short stories you wrote, political opinions, fanfic, summaries of recent episodes of a TV show you love, whatever. Doesn’t matter.

It’s media, it’s non-corporate, it’s a piece of the internet that exists IRL.

Seventh, DIY Internet!

There are lots of folks out there trying to organize co-op ISPs or to get municipal internet access. This is real good!

Help ‘em. Volunteer, or give money, or just spread the word. This is a path towards a better internet. But also, let’s find ways to be less dependent on the singular internet.

Bring back the BBS and modernize it

Eighth, Encryption and Anonymization!

This one is real simple. Use Tor and https everywhere.

It’s really that simple. Here is a great illustration of the benefits of using Tor.

Use encrypted chat apps, when possible. (I like Signal and XMPP. I’ve heard good things about Matrix.) Use Tor as often as you can (because the more people who are using TOR, the better TOR works), but understand the limitations of TOR in terms of anonymization.

Using TOR will get you around any outright censorship or blocking, and might help you bypass throttling (aside from the fact that using TOR is usually pretty significantly slower than browsing without it, by neccessity of how Onion Routing works.)

Educate, Agitate, Organize.

That’s the playbook.

Educate

Become your own news source, or amplify a non-corporate one. Blog (somewhere that isn’t Medium or Facebook.) Film the police and the politicians. Publish a zine. (Reach out to me if you want some help.)

Use whatever platform that is available to you to demonstrate to people that Rupert Murdoch owning a large chunk of Disney is real bad. Demonstrate how the Net Noot repeal hurts folks. Talk about the

Use those platforms to get them angry. Use those platforms to demonstrate how those platforms are harmful. (When I say “Those Platforms” I mean facebook, Medium, instagram, and other centralized services.)

Agitate

Then it’s time to agitate.

Help the people you have educated fight back.

We are fighting back against the consolidation of power in media in general, and specifically the repeal of net neutrality (which was possible, mostly, by abuse of that power.)

We fight back by leaving centralized services. By refusing to pay Disney/Fox/Comcast for media. By providing community alternatives to traditional media, and centralized services like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Medium. By self publishing. By using mastodon.

We agitate by supporting co-op and Community Run ISPs. We agitate by borrowing movies from the library. We agitate by sharing media with one another. We agitate by switching back to OTA TV. We agitate by using TOR. We agitate by reading and writing fanfic. We agitate by taking money and power out of the pockets of ISPs and content providers, and putting that money and power in to the hands of our communities.

Organize

And then we organize.

We coordinate our efforts. We acknowledge that the things that we are doing are intentionally radical. We start taking collective actions. That means boycotts. That means walkouts. That means days of silence.

Once there are enough of us, our agitations, our small actions, cascade. Our small individual actions, in aggregate, become as powerful (more powerful?) than the machinations of mega-corps.

Importantly, we cannot depend on Facebook or Twitter to organize.

We must explicitly organize in decentralized spaces. That does not mean that we cannot USE Facebook, or Twitter, or Medium as tools of organizing and outreach. We must depend on these services to handle our organization.

We cannot depend on the internet to organize, in the face of the repeal of net neutrality. That does not mean that we can’t USE the internet to organize, but we must not depend on the internet to organize.

We must explicitly find alternate methods of organizing in the event that the internet becomes (more) compromised. Part of this is organizing offline. Part of this is using TOR and using strong encryption.

Get Local!

The courts and congress will fight this out on the national level.

We can render that moot by fixing it on the local level.

Find out if your local community has an exclusive agreement with Comcast (or similar.) Find out if your local community has (currently unused) municipal fiber optic cables, and find out why they are dark.

Talk to your local politicians. Build community media sharing rings. Share podcast recommendations.

Run for office, if that floats your boat.

Other Problems

Unfortunately, Net Noot or No, the web has other problems. It’s spying on you. It’s infected with DRM. It’s more centralized and less interesting than it used to be, than it could be, than it should be.

So, Net Noot or not, you need a toolkit for a weirder web:

And some tips to help keep the web weird:

  • Publish stuff!
  • Use RSS to keep up with sites that update infrequently!
  • Subscribe to email newsletters because they are neat and email is unlikely to go away.
  • Pay people that make things that you like when you can afford to pay them so that they can keep making things.
  • Listen to podcasts and consume more DIY media.

Participate.

Create.

Take back control.


I’m on Mastodon @ajroach42@retro.social, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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