We heard some fighting words from US Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) this week, a stocky old man defending why he contributed to the elimination of privacy rules for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which affect all Americans living in this country. I quote: "Nobody's got to use the Internet."
He went on to say that if you regulated the Internet like a utility, "we wouldn't have the Internet". His nonsensical retort to his constituents proves an incredulous disconnect between our elected officials and the reality of our country's people. This is typical Republican rhetoric applied to what should be a nonpartisan issue. The Internet is woven into the fabric of our society, and throwing blanket statements like it's optional for anyone in this country to use it is unfathomably stupid. Perhaps for an old man, using the Internet is not nearly as intrinsic to living day-to-day as it is for the rest of us, but it is concerning that such a man is contributing to the rules that govern our privacy and the public utility that is the Internet.
The ruling is disappointing, and comes at a crucial time in our democracy where the intersection of connected devices, surveillance, and our right to privacy and dignity has become an increasing important fork in political decision-making. It will continue to be an area requiring, justifiably, government regulation. No one is saying choice is a bad thing here, but applying such rationale to ISPs' clamoring for advertising "innovation" is ridiculous. ISPs are feeling pressure from advertising giants like Facebook and Google, and are begging (sorry, lobbying) to gain a foothold to justify their existence as something more meaningful than being an expensive pipe to the Internet. We also can see how well this strategy is working for Verizon and AT&T, both telecommunications behemoths that are investing heavily in content and lobbying hard against net neutrality to justify business expansion to their shareholders since they've sunken into a similar dilemma.
The bullshit doesn't end here.