Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Internet should be free (and it is)

Looks like good news today for Canadians, with the federal government poised to reverse a CRTC decision that would make unlimited Internet plans a thing of the past.

There’s been a lot of hubbub over this. More than 350,000 Canadians were concerned enough to sign a petition against usage-based billing. The overall sentiment is that online access is already too expensive; jack up rates even further, and we’re going to have a full-scale revolt on our hands.

I agree wholeheartedly, but I’m going to go one step further. First, the Internet should be *free.* And, secondly, the Internet is available absolutely free of charge – depending on how you want to use it.

The best and brightest of the online arena, in my opinion, is access to information. The Internet can be a powerful learning tool, allowing us to tap into almost endless educational resources. In an ideal world it would be free-running, in every home, like water. Control of its bounty would not rest with corporations, but solely with governments, which tend to be more accountable to the public.

Thankfully, we have public libraries. All Toronto public libraries offer free wireless access, as well as a decent number of computers that can be reserved. No, you can’t play World of Warcraft, or download mass amounts of music. But you can use the Internet for its most important functions: information and communication. (Worth noting: you can actually borrow CDs and DVDs from the library, too.)

Unless you work from home, or you have a really good reason to download huge amounts of multimedia, why not just plan your Internet usage around a trip to the public library? For me, the digital realm is a lot like Miss Vickie’s Crinkle Cut Potato Chips: having it readily available in my home is just a temptation to binge. Library usage forces me to think, “What do I really need to accomplish online?” and get it done. I think it helps me conserve both time and money, and really you can’t beat that.

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