The Next Net

As promised, today we're going to talk about the Internet.  

Our revolution is the revolution of the network.  In one of the most enlightening talks I've ever heard, Jeremy Rifkin taught me about how the whole world moves to the beat of change in communication technology.  The dominant communication technology changes, and everybody follows: religion, government, energy, and the economy.  They all transform with communication.


If you really want to engage with this idea, stop everything right now and watch the first hour of this video. Yes, you heard me right, it is an hour long. Clocking in at 60 minutes, I think this is a brilliantly efficient way to familiarize yourself with the history of human society. Make some popcorn, watch it with your kids. Seriously. Doooooo it.



So the wisdom is this: the world we're building is built on the Internet.  Everything Seth Godin has taught us about the death of Industrialism and the rise of the niche artist.  Everything Chris Anderson has taught us about the long tail.  Kevin Kelly's thesis that all you really need is 1000 true fans. All of it, it's all built on flat, open, cheap, universal communication. It's built on the Internet.


Which is important, because the Internet is in danger.  The flat, open, cheap Internet that we know and love. This Internet, the Internet we're building our future on, is in mortal danger.


Right now, the Internet is built on a principle called Net Neutrality. Right now, the Internet doesn't discriminate between me and the New York Times.  The Internet that's coming into your home or office right now, delivers you my words just as quickly as it delivers the most popular and well funded words written online. Here, on this Internet, we're all equal.


There are people, though that want to change this. They don't want a flat Internet, they want a tiered Internet. They want to be able to prioritize some content over others. They want to be able to take the bits, the information, the words from sites like The New York Times, and prioritize those bits in the network, to send them to you faster than other less popular, less well funded words.


They want to prioritize the New York Times, and yes, they want to charge them for that privilege.  And the New York Times, of course, will pay up. They will have to, because all their competitors will pay up, too.


I won't though, because I won't be able to afford it. So my blog will be relegated to the bottom tier of the Internet.  Me and all my friends, all of us, our voices will be lost.  The Internet will become a glorified cable package, with a few hundred or thousand strong signals.  Our voices will become static.


Faced with this danger, we have two choices:


1) Protect the Internet, through political action. This work is championed by groups like Save The Internet, and has mostly to do with ensuring that the FCC creates sound public policy.




2) Build a New Net, one that is, by design, immune to this kind of abuse. This position is eloquently espoused by Douglas Rushkoff. His argument is, essentially, that we've already lost the Net Neutrality debate. Even if our government protects us from corporate perversion of the Internet (a huge if), we're still left with a net that's controlled by the government, which has its own dangers.


Either way, we have a lot of work to do.


Our future depends on the Internet. Love it. Protect it. Build it.