I can’t think of any better way to start an argument among my tech friends than to just say the term “net neutrality.”
Many of them will argue that losing it in December was a portent of bad things to come.
A smaller, but equally passionate group will say the term itself is political hype and things will not get as bad as feared.
But, safeguards were removed that once made it possible for a LION (local independent online news) publication like Free Press to have somewhat of an equal footing with much larger corporate media.
The reality is that now only five big corporations control who has access to the internet and at whatever speed they choose.
We shouldn’t expect drastic changes immediately. The PR departments of those five corporations will carry the day in company meetings warning that big actions too soon will create a firestorm.
It will be a better strategy for them to wait a while and then make changes in small increments.
But how much will that affect Free Press? Only as much as we allow.
It will be a matter of doing what we do now – adjust to the technical, economic and political environment that always changes around us.
Online national news may be in trouble if things turn south. Their massive operations completely depend on a fast, reliable, affordable internet for levels of profitability their investors demand.
But local news publications like Free Press will have many more options than the bigs precisely because of our limited geography of coverage.
• Low power radio broadcast may return as an affordable way of delivering the news in a limited locale and at a surprisingly low expense.
• Print technology has improved radically just over the last ten years. It is now possible to dial in a finely-tuned print and delivery solution. If we have the technology to print books only as orders come in, won’t we be able to do the same with print news?
• In-person news events are becoming an ever more important part of news organizations. I want Free Press to provide such events this year. But if the internet becomes restricted enough, that may be one of the core means of delivering information.
That you see me around town gathering news and getting the shot right now lets you better judge if you think we are publishing “fake news.”
When you just visited with a reporter in a coffee shop an hour ago there is a natural trust when you read their work later.
It’s a strength of small, local publications and a severe weakness of large national publications.
In 2017, this dynamic was at work around the world.
Vibrant, small news publications in dire circumstances in many countries managed to publish with a far more hostile government than we have now.
If they can do it, so can we.
For those reasons, I believe Free Press and other LIONs to have far more options in the future than the biggest, most prestigious news operations today.
If big corporations try to overtly or covertly stop us from keeping you informed, I say, bring it.
We have options.