What are the Social Implications?
What are the Social Implications?
The social implications have been considered from a broad spectrum including humor writers, academics and private citizens who see the implications of censorship as well. First we'll start with a Joint Microsoft / Georgia Tech paper on caps as they effect broadband use in the home focusing on South Africa, a region that is perhaps the hardest hit in terms of caps in the world. We STRONGLY recommend reading this report, particularly from page 4 onwards as it represents a worst case dystopian future that Americans have yet to experience in an environment where something that is not, and has not been finite resource is artificially made to be the case. South Africans are completely cut off when the "Gigs" run out suddenly and plans with "unused gigs" do not roll over month to month. This cut off can happen in the middle of an activity with insufficient bandwidth to even check online meters which are often inaccurate (much like AT&T's). Families who cannot afford "more cap" are sometimes forced to go without internet use at all until the following month. Caps caused their households to refrain from software updates which now come with a hefty data cost further opening them up to further security vulnerabilities. For example, without the latest updates they would be stuck in a cycle their computers would still remain vulnerable to security holes which makes them easy targets to be hijacked for botnets, stealing even more "gigs" as the cycle repeats itself.
Being discouraged from updating also creates a "version lag" and a digital/class divide that may affect their ability to connect to services at all. in this particular case if they are unable to connect to a particular service because they need to update to the newest version they could be stuck between doing their best to update but then having to wait till the following month till the "gig reset" or not updating and not being able to connect anyhow. Invisible or incorrect balances are a continual disruption in their lives forcing them to spend more time "managing" or "estimating" everything from the size of youtube videos to banner advertisements. They are unable to actually use the internet in a free and productive manner as it was designed and spend a portion of their lives working around "running out of cap" by having to hunt around for friends and neighbours to beg and borrow from on top of that. In multiple user households such as families, parents are forced into policing roles over usage while fingers pointed at each other in accusatory tones becomes common especially worst cases where "running out of cap" has consequences such as missing work or school deadlines.
Caps disincent use of the network and shape socially backwards behaviours that run counter to the productivity enhancing benefits the the internet is supposed to provide. We've pullled out some of the quotes from the subjects of the study as they speak for themselves.
“But [my husband]’s dad for example has been taking photographs of our son. He did pictorials for us and I very much wanted him to upload them and get them to us, but practically he couldn’t do that. So those have come through CDs a couple of times, he just popped them in post.” - note that one of the core benefits of the internet is supposed to reduce/eliminate this need.
“I think [my daughter] is actually very sweet when she said she won’t have Facebook and all that because Facebook would suck it [bandwidth]. And I used to Skype full time with my friends in the UK [but] now [I] stopped doing that.”
Ironically, an American humor writer from Cracked has covered much of the same ground above almost as concisely in their characteristic acerbic fashion . The situation is similar in Canada where routers are just flat out turned off (as I had to do in Australia) while the American poster and visitor learns to appreciate what he takes for granted (for now) in the US.
David Smith, author of the change.org petition is also primarily concerned with caps as a form of censorship. On his blog which he lays out in greater detail he describes limiting an individual's internet access at all in any way is censorship of the "big picture". For example, where AT&T's content and news is free (favored and exempt from caps) but third party providers are not, some people may only be able to afford to see "AT&T endorsed news" with it's particular slant and unable to access/afford other sources for different perspectives hence being a form of censorship. Partial information might as well be misinformation, it is only relevant when one has complete access to all that is necessary.