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Paul A Duginski
Paul A Duginski
Paul Duginski is a political cartoonist and veteran newspaper staff artist. He enjoys reading history, literature and going bodyboarding whenever he has time.
 

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Posted in Politics / Elections / National

Hideous Plan

Dec. 6, 2017 1:18 pm
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In Greek mythology, Medusa was a Gorgon whose visage — with a tangle of venomous snakes for hair — was so hideous, it would turn viewers to stone.

Nearly 22 years ago, I depicted Bill Clinton’s telecommunications legislation as a “bill of goods” with a Medusa head. I’m not an expert in telecommunications policy, and I can’t recall all the details, but at the time I thought it was a bad idea.

I know this much: the Telecom Act, signed in February 1996, was intended to boost competition, according to what we were told.

But a report from the public interest group Common Cause in 2005 found that politics — naturally — blunted the legislation’s effect.

“In many ways, the Telecom Act failed to serve the public and did not deliver on its promise of more competition, more diversity, lower prices, more jobs and a booming economy,” the group said. “Instead, the public got more media concentration, less diversity, and higher prices.”

The Common Cause report would suggest that my instincts in February 1996 were correct.

Now we’re faced with a more hideous monster — a Gorgon on steroids — that makes no pretense of doing anything good whatsoever for the consumer. It’s a massive gift to the telecom companies.

I’m talking about the efforts by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, to abandon network neutrality.

Pai is, of course, a Trump appointee.

As the New York Times has written, Pai wants to allow Comcast, Verizon and other big broadband companies to turn the Internet into something like cable television. The greedy telecom companies could control what you have access to by charging more for certain sites and throttling or blocking some altogether.

Americans are cutting the cord with cable providers, preferring streaming services through the Internet. But with the abandonment of net neutrality rules, Big Telecom could charge more for services from providers they view as competition. You still would need an Internet connection, and you have few choices, with virtually all of them coming through big telecommunications companies.

Big Telecom could even block news sites, interfering with the First Amendment rights of Americans. Say for instance, a news website wasn’t viewed as sufficiently pro-business. You may have to pay for a premium tier of service, like with cable TV, to get sites that big business deems to be “fake news” — i.e., truths that they can’t handle, as with our our current president.

It’s hardly shocking that this big wet kiss to wealthy, powerful big businesses would come from the Trump Administration. The Trumpians have always shown their tendency to favor the rich and corporations over ordinary folks, and they definitely tend toward the authoritarian.

Can you imagine a day when a fake-news-generating government could collude with other authoritarian regimes and with oligarchs to control what you read and hear?

I don’t know about you, but I sure can.

We’re already perilously close.

 
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