Charlie rolled her eyes as she flipped channels on the television trying to find something to watch with breakfast. Her cereal was getting soggy but she couldn’t stand commercial after commercial of propaganda for the President or the government. Every show on television was already state run and sponsored and it was clearly making the move into the commercials as well. She shook her head remembering that television in the US was known as the lesser-regulated platform for entertainment. She didn’t even want to think about the Internet, except she knew she had to log on and check whether or not her usage requests were approved. It could definitely wait until after breakfast though.
One of the only benefits to state run web connectivity, Charlie thought, was the ability to access the Internet anywhere without the need to have Wi-Fi. She logged onto her computer and accessed her usage homepage, which detailed her previous requests, whether they were approved or denied, as well as any current requests. She clicked over to academic requests and saw that her request to access up to fifteen miscellaneous websites in conjunction with her school day had been approved. Charlie let out a sigh of relief because that meant she could work on her research assignment for her History of US Technology course.
The more she learned about how the Internet and technology used to be the more Charlie became frustrated with the current system. The Internet transitioned before she was born from a privatized network, with incredible diversity in content and usage, to a sea of red tape where a misstep set off lights and sirens, while shutting down and individuals’ access immediately. Each night before bed, and always before the midnight deadline, Charlie logged onto her usage homepage, just like everyone else did, and submitted formal requests for usage the next day. She woke up every morning hoping they had been deemed “day essential” and that she would be granted limited access to the Internet to fulfill her academic and work requirements. After Charlie settled into her first class of the day her professor reminded the class that there was an upcoming assignment comparing and contrasting the Internet of yesteryear and the current system. As this was a historical class she knew she could get away with challenging the hyper-regulated Internet she loved to hate. Charlie had worked on her outline the night before and already knew she was going to lament the loss of social media and recreation on the Internet while arguing that restructuring it in such a way that only allowed citizens to engage in activities that were pertinent to their daily academic or work endeavors limited the creativity and growth that the Internet used to be known for.
Charlie knew there was a fine line between comparing the past and the present and going after a nationwide implementation. She needed to remember to remain objective in her discussion. If she hadn’t learned the history of technology and the Internet she wondered if she would have grown frustrated with the limitations of the Internet on her own. It was astounding to think that only several hundred years ago the Internet was privatized and a person could just do whatever they wanted on online. Homework, email, research, movies and television, and cat videos were all online and everyone had access. Now the government carefully watched the Internet, and television was on its way there. As Charlie moved through her day she thought more and more about how things used to be. She had a hard time imagining that everything a person needed was just available right there in their hands, on one device. She thought of her phone now, which bore very little resemblance to the phones of the past. It was stylish but had very limited capacities, as its main functions were messaging, calling, setting an alarm, and playing music. There was a very clear divide between which technology was for leisure and was for academics or work. The only caveat, Charlie had to admit, was that it was helpful to have no distractions as she settled into work.
Her job was pretty simple really. She worked for the university approving usage requests for research. She logged on to the department usage homepage and started reading through the first proposals. The first one wanted 200 webpage accesses to research autoimmune diseases with unlimited government webpage access. Not a problem, Charlie thought. Most things that were based in scholarly research were easy to approve. As per the government mandate, Internet access had to benefit society in some way, whether it is working, researching, learning, or something along those lines. That was the trade off for having cell phones and laptops standard for all United States citizens. Everyone got a phone for leisure and a laptop with Internet connectivity for work and growth of society. That had been the goal when the federal government began backing the struggling technology system all those years ago. They would step in and fund the Internet and technology companies but they wanted a return on that investment in the form of millions of people working on one network for not only their personal work, but work for the government. Everyone had some federal project they were involved in even on a microscopic level.
Several dozen applications later it was time for Charlie to head home. Later as she finally stood up from her computer she felt reasonably good about her research assignment. She used up all fifteen websites of her allowance that day and compiled a pretty good list of sources for her research assignment. Maybe the next day she would see if she could stretch her request to include a few more website allowances. Just in case there was something Charlie forgot about that needed to be added last minute. After spending some time tidying up her paper Charlie started thinking about some of the good aspects of government funded Internet. She had to acknowledge that connectivity everywhere was a plus. It was a very strong, secure network and Charlie never had to worry about it failing her at the wrong time. She could not complain about the free phone and computer that was given to everyone and replaced every few years. She also knew, through her research, that taking on the Internet led to a huge economical boost and tens of thousands of new jobs were created. Jobs just like hers at the university.
Charlie knew things had changed dramatically since the inception of the Internet. The first President that stepped up to back the Internet as one tangible object, that allowed connectivity across large distances, set in motion a chain of events that had the government creeping ever more into the life of American citizens. Learning the history of freedom on the Internet had her questioning why so much of her life was under the umbrella of the government. Charlie envisioned a world without constant programming and commercials driven by political agenda, and a day that didn’t involve the bureaucracy of paperwork and official requests just to get online. As Charlie got ready for bed, after she submitted her usage requests for the next day she wondered if she wanted the wheel to spin backwards or forward. Spinning backwards towards freedom of expression and self-discovery through technology and the Internet, or moving forward to something totally unknown.
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Good Times, Go Hoos.