Thanks for your reply, Stan. I think your concerns about treating the internet as a public utility are valid. I wouldn’t be any happier with the government monitoring my web browsing activity than I am with Google/my ISP doing it. However, it should be said, the NSA/CIA/etc are already perfectly capable of doing so under our current system, and do monitor our activity at present with telecoms & ISP’s cooperation. So it’s not like switching to a different model of internet service provision would create this problem; it’s already a very present concern.
In a lot of ways, I see the internet as analogous to radio or phone access — much of the infrastructure for those was developed by the government, with an eye to the fact that these communication methods were deeply beneficial to society. The government has a role in paving roads, setting up telephone lines, and so on — if we rely on private entities to do the development, they can afford to restrict access and hike up prices even further. I used to be a libertarian, but I’m not anymore. I don’t want to live in a world where a private company can charge me to drive on their roads; I’d rather have society agree to pay taxes for the public creation of something that nearly everyone needs.
The internet is a complex beast, to be sure, and I’m not happy with its current status, but handing over the reigns to private entities even further is not the solution. In this piece, I mention that our current system is so flawed that we need more than just the maintenance of current net neutrality policies to fix it. I would widen the focus on that and say we need more accountability & transparency about how the government uses & aspires to use the internet to surveil us, too. A lot of things need to change on a paradigmatic level.