Two longs and a short was our party-line phone ring when I was a child. In 1967, the oak-cased phone box was replaced, leaving a raw plaster rectangle on the wall. The party-line system created some limitations on the privacy of conversations, and made connecting long-distance calls quite a chore — it was all operator- assisted then. The Bell System replacement was a regular plastic wall phone with an actual phone number, and it was no longer a party line. The telephone was, at that time, both a convenience and a necessity, though hardly an entertainment source.

Fast-forward 50 years and we have generations who have grown up immersed in digital technology to the degree that they believe it is almost the sole source of life’s meaning. Some even believe that there is some inherent “right” to unlimited access to the internet, simply because it exists. I suppose by that mental contortion, we would have felt entitled to a private phone line in 1960 as well, though surely the phone company would not have agreed to provide one for free.

Social media, search engines, streaming video, blogs — none of these things had any meaning 30 years ago. For a long time, the bane of many parents' lives was television, then came video games and portable devices such as the Gameboy. Technology used for entertainment with a side serving of communication became a common product model. The hardware morphed from Xbox gaming consoles to smart phones with streaming video, instant access to FacebookLive, Snapchat, and Instagram. This has created the perfect storm for a distracted mind, limited attention span, and a superficial environment that distorts personalities and creates fertile ground for anxieties in adolescents and adults so afflicted.

Now, to the surprise of no one with any common sense, the smart phone is being “discovered” to be a serious problem. Though, to be honest, many adults' use of this current technology is as inappropriate as adolescents’.

The pervasiveness of digital technology and the manipulation of information by those who control the sources of media is itself a larger threat to freedom of speech and access to information than anything the supposed reversal of “net neutrality” could ever be (falsely) claimed to do.

The technology of accessing the internet is changing rapidly, and the notion that the FCC had to declare it a utility in order to regulate it was an orchestrated power grab by the previous administration, nothing more. The recent vote to rescind the 2015 regulatory overreach  by the FCC prompted highly organized left-wing protesters to target the home of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, sending death threats to him and his family, which exemplifies the worst sort of liberal fascism being funded by wealthy activists. I’d suggest anyone convinced of the “death of free speech/the internet” read the FCC memo regarding this issue. at fcc.gov.

Who really controls the gates of the internet? Power there is all about the use of algorithms and data-mining, controlling search results and pushing particular products or ideologies … and money from ads.

As of 2017 Google covered 89 percent of all internet searches, and 45 percent of mobile operating systems. Apple had 54 percent of the operating systems.

Amazon had 44 percent of online commerce and 75 percent of all electronic book sales. Wal-Mart wasn’t even in the running.

Ad revenues account for a good portion of profits for these internet giants, and they reflect the power of this media; in 2017 Google had 42 percent of online ad revenues and Facebook carried 21 percent.

An astounding 95 percent of young adults' internet use is with one Facebook Inc. product or another.

To suggest that these sources of media/information and “news” are not only pervasive, but also monopolistic because of their scope and finances, is an understatement. They can create public opinion by simply pushing certain stories and suppressing others, and they do.

As Christopher Mims observed in a recent Wall Street Journal column, “Keywords,” “In the face of pressure brought by a growing roster of Facebook investors and former executives, many of whom have publicly stated that Facebook is both psychologically addictive and harmful to democracy, the Facebook founder and chief executive has pledged to “fix” Facebook…” Among the fixes going on are changes to the newsfeed algorithm, and video stream. Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to “encourage meaningful social interaction…” which, considering the medium, is likely nothing more than an absurd contradiction — get the screen out of your hand/face and go do something, live life.

Internally, Google is far from free-thinking, and the recent firing of an employee for writing an internal memo voicing his opinion about the company’s biases shows this. The result is that the fired employee, James Damore, has now brought a lawsuit against Google that credibly asserts that there is a company policy of liberal fascism that punishes/shames anyone who disagrees with their ideology. Reading the lawsuit, found online on Scribd, ought to be required for students and others wailing about “internet freedom."

And here is an interesting video from Damore posted on Youtube called "What Happens When Google Disagrees with You"

Mao’s Cultural Revolution reappears at Google in the form of “peer bonuses” for denouncing Mr.Damore, applauded by the Google “recognition team.” Why would one doubt this attitude also extends to the company's algorithms for searches and ranking of news stories?

George Orwell’s "1984," anyone?