Internet is not a choice, Representative Sensenbrenner!

Internet is NOT a choice unless living independently is a choice.

Having just finished a trip to visit family in New Jersey for Easter, I can unequivocally say that Internet IS NOT a choice.

On the 6 hour drive down, thanks to OTELCO’s hosted phone system, with my cell phone, I was able to take calls that rang to my desk.  With a smart device I could keep up with email, and thanks to a hot spot was able to connect to the network to work on a couple of projects. No, I was not doing the driving.

On Saturday, over my morning coffee, thanks to my mother-in-law’s Internet connection, I enjoyed reading the Portland Press Herald on my tablet.  I came across a reprint of a Washington Post story about Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and his comment that use of the Internet is a choice; apparently, the congressman was at a town meeting defending his vote to overturn the enactment of the FCC’s Internet privacy rules.  I chuckled and thought, I might just have to blog about that.  I figured I’d think on it when I returned to the office on Tuesday, but as it turned out, the blog almost wrote itself during my visit.

A case when using the Internet is NOT a choice

We stayed with my mother-in-law who is a retired attorney and an avid reader.  She is also severely visually impaired at this stage of her life, and can drive only in daylight hours and very locally.  The only way she can read is with her iPad with the font set at about 36 points and at the highest contrast.  The print in large-print books isn’t even large enough for her to see, therefore, as one might guess, Audible and Kindle books are indispensable to her, and certainly not a choice – unless one’s ability to see well enough to read is a choice.

While my husband was doing some chores, (there’s always a list when we go to visit) Mom and I were talking about some household items that need replacing.  She was lamenting about getting out to do the necessary shopping because of her driving challenges.  One item in particular, chair cushions for some outside furniture really had her stymied because there are no stores within her comfortable driving radius.  I was able to help her shop on-line where she could zoom in to photos of available options and actually see them better that she could in person.

Thankfully, other than her vision, she is in good health, and her doctors are local.  There may come a day when neither is the case and she may not be able to get to those doctors.  Should that time come, knowing her independent nature, the availability of telehealth options will allow her to remain in her home.  Internet is NOT a choice, unless living independently is a choice.

A couple of weeks age we shared a story about a family in northern Maine.  The ability of a child with health issues to ‘attend school’ via the Internet is NOT a choice.

There is no question that the Internet is not a choice, now let’s get back to Representative Sensenbrenner’s remarks.  At the Town Hall meeting, he defended his vote by noting that enacting the privacy rule now would be unfair to the businesses that were used to making money by selling information to advertisers.

In actuality, it’s not generally the ISPs who are doing that, it’s companies like Google and Facebook and, as we all know, the FCC has no jurisdiction over them, the FTC does.

After the meeting, Sensenbrenner’s office attempted to clarify his statement:

“Actually, he said that nobody has to use the internet.  They have a choice. Big difference.”

I’m not sure that clarification really helped the congressman.

The Point Here?

Regardless of Congress’ decision to stop the enactment of the FCC privacy rules for Internet Service Providers, and whether or not the FTC is ultimately charged with oversight of ISPs along with companies like Google and Facebook,

Internet is NOT a choice!

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