A lot of buzz has been going on about the internet lately. As it should be; the internet, amidst the rapid growth of the digital age, makes the world go round. So why, as the nation whose military complex invented the World Wide Web in the 1960s, has America fallen so far behind the rest of the world in terms of internet download speeds?
A 2014 piece in The Week analyzed some of the rankings of global internet connection, specifically focusing on the United States’ dismal performance. According to the Ookla Speedtest study they cited (it has since been taken down following the site’s discontinuation) the United States falls in 31st in terms of overall download speed, placing behind countries like Estonia, Hungary and Uruguay. Despite recent improvements, America still lags behind most modern powers.
So what does this, and some of the recent FCC talk about net neutrality, mean for the internet, and more importantly, those who use the platform to produce and distribute content? Despite the narrow vote to keep net neutrality law of the land, the whole fiasco demonstrated the truly slippery slope on which the issue still remains. If internet providers and cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner are able to charge more for higher internet speeds, we’ll end up with a two-lane highway where the super-rich can afford blazing speeds, while the rest of us are relegated to whatever economy package we can afford.
Trump’s presidency could spell big trouble for this decision. His rhetoric about cracking down on journalism and the free flow of media could very realistically indicate a reversal of that most recent FCC decision, making it impossible for independent media startups to compete against a web of monopolies and corporate super media.
It’s a scary thought. We need to keep the flow of news and information as free as possible, in order to continue claiming we live in a true democracy. And that means continuing to fight for a neutral internet.