Today's internet service providers mediate communication, control data flow, and influence everyday online interactions. In other words, they have become ideal agents of public policy and instruments of governance. In Telecom Tensions Mike Zajko considers the tensions inherent to this role – between private profits and the public good, competition and cooperation, neutrality and discrimination, surveillance and security – and asks what consequences arise from them. Many understand the internet as a technology that cuts out traditional gatekeepers, but as the importance of internet access has grown, the intermediaries connecting us to it have come to play an increasingly vital role in our lives. Zajko shows how the individuals and organizations that keep these networks running must satisfy a growing number of public policy objectives and contradictory expectations. Analyzing conflicts in Canadian policy since the commercialization of the internet in the 1990s, this book unearths the roots of contemporary debates by foregrounding the central role of internet service providers. From downtown data centres to publicly funded rural networks, Telecom Tensions explores the material infrastructure, power relations, and political aspirations at play. Theoretically informed but grounded in the material realities of people and places, Telecom Tensions is a fresh look at the political economy of telecommunications in Canada, updating conversations about liberalization and public access with contemporary debates over privacy, copyright, network neutrality, and cyber security.
About the Author
Mike Zajko is assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.