The topic of net neutrality is on everybody's mind this week, but it's not likely even with the laws in place that our government will be able to adequately control much of what will go on. Not only will it be difficult to know where and when carriers might be blocking packets, or playing unfairly, it's also a watery expectation to assume that those who footed the bill for the internet's existence (the carriers) should not be able to then operate their business how they want. Would Google turn over the search business it developed and privately funded to other search companies who did not? Would you? Likely not.
It's of course more complicated than this, but net neutrality it not the only thing that threatens the "open" web. In fact, the internet was never open in the first place and that is going to be increasingly important for everybody to understand as we all move forward. An "open" platform is not built and funded by private companies. An "open" platform doesn't secretly track and spy on its users without their knowing, or sell/share that data (or your Tweets) to third parties without your consent as many sites do, including likely many who are crying fowl on today's net neutrality ruling. Indeed what defines "open" will become increasingly important in the years to come as the internet moves to its final position of our society and ultimately the world's dominant information delivery and communications platform.
But this is not the only thing that threatens the "open" web. The corporatization of the internet platform is also escalating as businesses online hand over the control to brands -- entirely due to the media/web/etc. 2.0 insistence that all business must rely on ad-only models online. If you study content monetization over any of the three legacy information delivery platforms (print media, broadcast TV and radio), ad-only models have rarely been predominant. This solely consumer driven, but can help to keep a balance among corporate hands. Want to get a sense of how corporations control platforms? Just ask any TV network head. By giving brands the same foothold online, businesses on the internet are creating the closed web they are fighting to stop.
The bottom line is that while America has invented the internet, a super platform that can do what the five other information delivery and communications platforms in our society can do, it lacks sorely in understanding it and ultimately, maximizing it for our future. For the past six years our media/business has screamed false and unfounded headlines such as "people won't pay for content online" despite that people do and have for ten years, and other ridiculous assumptions. It champions tearing down "old" this and that, but the problem is that it doesn't realize you have to put something there to replace it, or everybody loses. Rather than taking time to educate and be educated, it seeks to do whatever it takes to draw eyeballs and headlines -- to the determent of itself and ultimately us all.
Rather than leveraging the internet to boom its business, as retail industry did, through research, learning and careful effort, media and music both took the route of letting it dismantle their markets, and this hurts us all. It's great when barriers are lowered to let others in, but nobody wins when something means a loss of American jobs or revenue.
Far worse, however, is that our ignorance about the platform we created has the potential to affect us on a global level. Foreign companies are already well vested in American internet business, and that will continue to increase and grow. Many countries are far ahead of us in terms of internet use and innovation, and the recent Wikileaks and Gawker hackings show just exactly what can be done with cyber terrorism, something I've read more American media than not say we don't need to worry about than not. We haven't even gotten to where things are going to get really sticky yet, such as in identity, currency, and other factors, as the internet will be in everything and everywhere in the future -- offline, online, and far more than "mobile" as it has always been designed to be device agnostic.
How can anybody begin to create laws and regulations when such a large number have no idea what the internet truly is, how it works and what it's here to do? How can any of us really take advantage of it?
The reality is, the internet is not "a place for friends" or to "share," or run/owned by the people -- in fact, it's on the contrary as the future will continue to reveal and point out. It's a very sophisticated, very unique and very curious government-created and designed infrastructure that will be the sole platform we tap for everything in the future, from our phone calls to our TV shows to turning on and off the electricity in our houses. For that alone, it should be taken seriously. It also shouldn't be allowed to weaken our country as it has been. It's fun to watch walls come down and disruption happen, but it's a two-sided coin that can either benefit or hurt us. Guess which one American business keeps choosing. A look at the market should tell you -- most startup tech companies are still reliant on investment capital -- not revenue -- to survive, multiple industries are crumbling or in shambles.
What's unfortunate is that the issues of we are seeing today were put into play more than ten and twenty years ago. If you don't think that the same is happening as we speak for the years ahead, come back and read this article two years from now. Until America -- and American business, its executives, media, etc. -- starts to take the platform seriously and truly adapt, net neutrality will hardly be our only problem down the road.
Patricia Handschiegel is a serial entrepreneur with a background in internet telecom engineering and platform (TV, phones, print media, etc.) business, spending more than ten years in the carrier market as it built the web, and in all aspects of internet business. The New Power Girls is a series that follows the lives, work and experiences of the new women entrepreneurs and topics that relate to them