The US Government recently announced their own universal user ID service, which would basically prevent the need for multiple logins. Twitter, Facebook, your email, any site you comment on from FoxNews.com to Reddit, they all require some kind of credentials. Would that make your life easy enough that you would be willing to essentially let someone else in on everything you read and write? Most likely not. Not to worry, I don’t expect to be as widely adopted as they hope. Services like Disqus and LiveFyre (the comment system on this blog) have tried to solve the issue in the past, but nobody has strictly shown true market dominance.
So if it isn’t just convenience, what about internet access? What would it take? Many people have understood and not had a problem with Google scanning their emails as long as their GMail is free. Until recently, that is. Google has even offered extremely fast Fiber internet connections at low-cost to consumers, even offering a free tier to those who would take it. The understanding, there, is that Google knows what you do on the internet, and will use that information to target their advertisers dollars at you.
What if the government began treating the internet more like a utility. Not just a local government, the federal government of your United States. Free or reduced rate super fast, Gigabit speed internet to your house. Would you take it? Does this immediately boil down to the “I’ve got nothing to hide” vs. the “Constitutional Right to Privacy” people? Is there more to it? What if a project like this finally helped improve the rural areas who are still forced to rely on shoddy DSL connections, if they are even available. Some are restricted to dial-up only, and even their dial up speeds barely break the 28.8K barrier.
Government sponsored internet access, if it were to become such a thing, should start in those rural areas with little to no other choice. It would be the smart thing to do, as it would be difficult for many of those users to resist. But in cities where you do have other options… is the cost savings worth it? What if it were completely free, compared to the $40 or more that most Americans pay every month (I pay over $60).
Right now, we assume that we have some kind of privacy because private companies are fighting the good fight for us… to some extent. But the simple fact is that someone at Verizon, or xFinity, or Time Warner Cable can access your browsing history, can see what you’re doing, etc… it all runs through their servers. You don’t own any part of the internet from one end to the other unless you had one single copper wire strung between your house and your neighbors, your information will always travel over at least some part of “the public internet.” That’s why I was actually surprised that people were surprised by the revelations of NSA spying. I had always assumed I was being watched, followed, listened to, and that someone had a dossier on me. But even I would like to think I might question whether or not I would readily hand it over to them, just to save a few bucks a month, or to get faster internet. But who am I kidding. Gigabit internet?