Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Final Essay: An Internet for Everyone

This was my final essay from my Composition 1 class last semester. I thought I had posted this but I recently realized it never was. This paper I received a 96% on it due to citation errors. After this paper I received a 93.86% for the class.


Everybody uses the internet. I know that is a blanket statement but it is mostly true. Unless you never leave your house and have no television or phone, you are in some form an internet user. Internet exposure is everywhere; whether you’re buying a carton of milk with a credit card or playing a video game with you friend in another country, you are an internet user. Since the early 90’s, with the introduction of America Online, the internet has been a growing part of the lives of people. Since 1969, when Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (also known as ARPANET) created the first network of interconnected computers, the system that wouldn’t be known as the “internet” until 1988 started a fast and steady climb to social and economic domination (Pendergast and Pendergast, Eds 3065). Since then there has been a growing concern to online privacy and decency. The major cable companies that connect the world are becoming greedier and want to make more money off the system that billions of people use every day. Whether people are using the internet for social, political or monetary gain the cable companies want a cut. By taking control of current networks and building a new internet that is censored and will only allow certain people access to certain websites; as long as they can afford to pay. If the cable companies have their way, the internet would no longer be an open and non-tiered medium. This outcome would be disastrous to the current web culture built around freedom of information and communication and will, also, affect the forward movement of human society.

When the internet first took off in the 90’s, the web was littered with sites that generated content direct at one certain user. Whether it was a flash based single player game or a shopping site, the web was nothing but a place for a person to kill time. Most of this content, being subscription based, put a drain on wallets and the general user wasn’t interested in paying on top of their current internet subscription; which at the time was a premium service not the cultural staple it is today. In the early 2000’s, this “web culture”, experienced a major fall. The user began to realize the internet had no true function to make their lives more productive; this allowed for the “creation” of “web 2.0.” The web 2.0 idea took off with the creation of social websites like Digg allowed users to create links to news articles and permitted its user base to vote on whether the article is good or not. The social interaction between people from many different cultures showed the world that the internet can be used for more than just research, time consuming games and shopping. Social sites started to pop up all over the web. Sites like,, and revolutionized the social networking landscape by allowing its users to generate their own content that the user can push out to their friends and family. This open internet paved the way for a person to truly be free on the web.

The internet can be defined as a portal to the free flow of information. Just open your browser, type something in and you can find it. The web is an open media that can be used for anything ones heart desires. There has always been limited restriction on the internet; the only real control the government has over the internet is with certain sites that break the laws set by the governing body. Sites that feature murder, child pornography and other devious acts have always been controlled by the FBI and other governmental agencies (State Legislatures 8). Unfortunately, there are people who think this isn’t enough control. Internet service providers (or ISP’s) believe that because they provide the internet to others they should be in full control of the content that is accessed. This idea would mean an internet that could be tiered, meaning, that I pay more money than my friends do so I can access these sites that my friends cannot. The ISPs believe that the internet is their property and when sites like make billions of dollars using the internet they are leaching off a system they didn’t build (Epstein). Net Neutrality means anybody can have access to the same bandwidth and the same sites and have the freedom to produce any content they choose.

Having an open network has allowed the world to interact in ways ARPANET never dreamed of. Originally, conceived as a network for universities to connect scholars and scientists to each other’s data, modern social networking sites have taken this idea and made it a staple in most families (Paultre 9). In my own family, has become the place for everyone to connect. Since my grandmothers death in 2010 my family has grown apart and the social network has kept those people we don’t get to see often, updated on our everyday lives. Posting pictures of my four children has, on many occasions, prompted other to reach out and set up play dates with people I never thought about reaching out to. I have been able to keep tabs on friends from high school and make connections that can help me on my path to a successful career. If the internet suddenly changed and my ISP started to charge me for every picture I post on Facebook, not only would I stop posting but my family in Texas would very rarely get to see pictures and videos of my kids. Facebook would be devastated by a decrease in posts if the internet collectively stopped posting on their Facebook pages. I imagine their stock would drop because advertisers would not want to continue paying Facebook when “more than 500 million active users,” drops to 100 million (Facebook). The result would mean the loss of thousands of jobs for Facebook employees and the eventual shut down of a multi-billion dollar company, because the market is no longer able to freely use the product that they are producing.

Another aspect of online media is podcasting. This medium sprung up around the creation of the iPod and the popularity of similar listening devices. The radio can be described as a static medium; no pun intended. Listeners don’t have the choice of content to listen to the content is decided on what the broadcast company thinks will make money. Of course, any listener who doesn’t agree with the local shock jock can just change the station to something else; the radio can only have so many stations before you come back to that same old shock jock. Podcasts have offered an alternative to the radio and has allowed the listener to choose the content based on their own interests, not on what broadcasters believe the listeners want. I have been listening to podcasts for almost five years and it has become a staple of my everyday life. I follow a select schedule of shows I want to hear and I listen to them when I want to hear them. The abolishment of net neutrality would mean the end of my daily routine and stop me from enjoying my commute, as well as, push me to turn off the radio because there is nothing interesting to me. For three years I have listened to a podcast provider named Scott Johnson and have religiously followed his podcast network he calls, Frogpants Studios. Scott Johnson started with one show and is now offering nineteen podcasts (ten of which he personally hosts) for selective listening to anyone with open access to the internet. I asked Scott what having an open internet means to Frogpants and he stated that “Frogpants would not exist if it were not for the internet being open and free to creators like myself. If that were to change, we would all be in a serious heap of trouble, and Frogpants would die like literally millions of other efforts around the web. It would be catastrophic to say the least (Johnson).” Scott Johnson is a clear example for why an open internet is important.

One aspect that is great about an open internet is the use it plays in academics. One of my employees at work goes to a school that utilizes an online service to handle their grades. The way it works is quite simple. The teacher uses the service to handle all her students grades, this service can be used at home and at the school or anywhere the teacher has web access. Imagine if she had full access to this service at the school but at home she is limited to what she can access. This could be an issue if the teacher is only able to access a thousand webpages a month and it is the end of marking period. If the teacher gets blocked because she went over her limit then those grades would be late which could affect her job and her students’ future. This system has the most benefits for the students and the parents of the students. My employee, Crystal, can view all her grades up to the minute they are posted. Crystal told me, “If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t know what is going on in my classes; I would not be graduating with honors” (Furney). If she discovers any problem she can address it immediately, instead of later when report cards come in the mail. The parents also have access to it and can keep track of their child’s progress daily; instead of relying on report cards at the end of the semester and discovering their child has failed, they can know right away when their child is struggling. If parents and students can’t access this service it would affect the child’s grades and possibly their chances at getting into the college of their choice.

Colleges have a similar system called Blackboard that would have the same affect for the student if unavailable to them. More important than this is the free flow of information on the web. Research is becoming more and more online driven and to not have access to the web could prove a major inconvenience to scholars and their instructors. Without readily available information the college student would have to rely on skimming through books to find the sources they need to succeed. Some would say that we haven’t relied on the web in the past therefore people shouldn’t rely on it now. This statement is flawed in a major way; the world is changing at an enormous rate. Computers are getting faster and new technologies are being developed equally as fast. To tell someone they can’t use the fastest tools available to them would slow the progress of humanity. Someone could have an idea that could stop cancer but lacked the knowledge to bring it about. This person could publish it online and make it available to anybody who thinks they could do it. Imagine, years later, a doctor comes across this idea and uses it to cure cancer. Also, imagine the person who had the idea in the first place had limited access to the internet. The ISP decides his blog should be on a tier that isn’t available to many others and the doctor curing cancer never sees it. It could take another hundred years before someone discovers the cure. Which example would you like to happen? Sure cancer is cured no matter what but progress was slowed because the information the doctors needed was not available to them.

Losing the open access to the worldwide web would change my life. It is how I interact, communicate and it is where I get my information and my entertainment. For nearly two years, my house has been an IPTV household; meaning I don’t have any cable service, my computer is connected to my TV and I watch all my shows through the internet. By utilizing services like Netflix, Hulu and the official sites of major TV networks, I can watch all of my favorite shows and movies whenever I want and not have to pay the cable networks for hundreds of channels (90% of which I never watch), nor do I pay for the cable company to record shows I miss, they are available when I want them. If the ISP’s were to charge more money to access Netflix or Hulu because I am on a lower tiered internet, I would lose access to content that is important to me. I can’t afford to pay the outstanding fees involved with cable TV, let alone pay for a higher tier of the web. In a since, the poor would be segregated from the majority of the web and not have the resources it want or needs to succeed or just enjoy life.

The web is a part of everyone’s daily life. The flow of information, whether through cell phones or Wi-Fi devices, is always around us; passing through our bodies whether we like it or not. As a human race we have gone through many changes; from a society with no readily information, to a society fighting for freedom of information and onto a society where information is ever present and openly available, regardless of race, education or monetary worth. It doesn’t seem logical to go back to a middle ground where information is there but only a select few can access it. The economic implications are too high to take away internet freedom. Web creators, like Scott Johnson, would be forced to stop making content as would all podcasters, bloggers and other architects of digital life would be forced to stop creating and try to find other jobs. The world would be forced to slow down and the advancement of the human race would come to a slow crawl. Internet needs to remain open and available. The future depends on it.

Works Cited

Epstein, Alex. "Net Neutrality vs. Internet Freedom." Newberry Observer 16 August 2006. Print.

"Statistics ." Facebook, n.d. Web. 2 April 2011.

Furney, Crystal. Personal interview. 2 April 2011.

Johnson, Scott. Personal Interview. 11 April 2011.

Paultre, Alix L. "The weaponized Internet: one could say that the Internet is a weapon that got out of the control of its creators." ECN-Electronic Component News 55.3 (2011): 9. Print.

Pendergast, Sara, and Tom Pendergast, Eds. "The Internet." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 5 vols. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 3065.

"Child porn laws cast a wide web." State Legislatures Oct. 2004/Nov. 2004: 8. Print.


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