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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

A recent federal court decision about Internet regulation, and a pending Colorado law that would give grocery stores the right to sell hard liquor and wine, may not seem, to you, to have that much in common.

But they do to me.

They both smack of a continuing tendency in America to rely on corporate monopolies for everything we eat, drink, wear, watch, listen to and, ultimately, know.



For those not paying attention to the raging battle over “net neutrality,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., recently ruled that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority when it clamped down on the Comcast communications giant for its Internet management practices.

The FCC, a couple of years ago, told Comcast it could not interfere with its subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer file-sharing services. The corporation claimed the P2P users were “slowing down its network.” The FCC believed it had the authority, and the need, to step in to preserve open use of the Internet, but Comcast appealed to the courts, saying the feds had gone too far.




The court agreed with Comcast, and now the FCC and Congress are faced with figuring out a way to get around that ruling to ensure that no corporation gains the power to get between you and the information highway.

I’ve been reading a lot of e-chatter on the subject of net neutrality, and I generally agree that the only way to keep the Internet true to its anarchistic origins is to prevent the corporations from gaining complete control over its usage.

And since complete control is exactly what corporations want in all situations, I’m rooting for the FCC to put a collar on the corporate bulldog and yank it to heel.

Now, about those grocery stores …

A proposal is making its way through the Colorado General Assembly that would enable grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, hard liquor and wine, where they now are limited to the sale of 3.2 beer.

The bill is backed by the huge grocery chains, such as Safeway, and hotly opposed by craft brewers and liquor store owners, and I’m siding with the latter – no surprise there, I guess.

I should note that the state legislature earlier this year knocked down a proposal that would have permitted grocery stores to bully their way into the fill-strength beer market, so there is hope for the small business owners even though this new bill squeaked through the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee recently.

I also should note, in the interests of full disclosure, that I am a drinking man, and my preference is for Scotch whisky and craft beers, but I certainly am not letting my taste in booze get in the way of my judgment here. I like shopping in small, mom-and-pop liquor stores, but I also go to the liquor marts such as Applejacks, if they have something I want and can’t get from my local liquor vendors.

But my real interest in this bill, and in the Comcast decision, is of a more philosophical nature.

I don’t like the increasing homogenization of our culture. I hate that the most prevalent restaurants of our time are fast-food outlets that serve the same over-salted, fat-filled, bland provender whether you’re in Poughkeepsie or Pueblo, and the richest retail outfit in the world is Wal-Mart. Local cuisine, like human-scale retail, is fading out in the face of a juggernaut of monopolistic intent.

And I view both these developments, the Comcast fight and the grocery-liquor bill, as more of the same.

Of course, the Internet, in itself, is a huge, smothering leveler in our society, and already is helping to solidify the hold of the chain-store mentality nationwide, and worldwide.

But if we let the corporations control it completely, we’re asking for trouble – the same kind of trouble we’ve reaped by allowing ourselves to be led by our nose rings up and down the aisles of the grocery chains, which are supplied by factory farms, which are owned by corporations, which are strangling small farmers …

You get the picture.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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