The internet was created out of public resources — it was a military project worked on at universities. It is now (almost?) exclusively owned by corporations.
I went to a 5G talk at the Watershed last year hoping to understand more about what the concerns were but instead got to hear the benefits of it. These were not benefits for residents or users but for those who control the means of production and distribution. There was talk of the companies who were set to make money from its use and those would benefit from increased surveillance of the public (states/corporations).
The health concerns did not really come up. In fact, the man giving the talk (a computer scientist university lecturer who had written books on computer science) was quite frankly confused about the spectrum of concern about health. He put up a reference or two to public health England or some other health organisation and then carried on about the ‘real’ issues.
There are two reasons why this is interesting to me:
1. there are two clear sets of argument and concern about 5G; identifying the spread of these separate discussions/arguments would make a good case study for checking demographics and media sources–whose narrative gets amplified?
2. One of the solutions proposed by our speaker was a separate internet infrastructure that was not controlled by corporations. Someone at the meeting piped up to say that he had been part of a collective in Bristol that actually tried to do this. I went to speak to him afterwards and it turned out to be someone I already knew well from Twitter! How’s that for a small world? or probably it just shows how our similar interests brought us both to the same place.
So my intention in this article had been to point out this separate network. I had not at that point, and still haven’t, seen any official media narrative about creating a non-corporation controlled internet infrastructure.
“technologies that do not provide gateways to news content but facilitate access — internet service providers, browsers, mobile operators and app platforms — are also dominated by huge corporations. They have no direct bearing on news consumption, but they do have varying degrees of power over traffic management (Schlosberg 2016: 134–5). Even the cable and routers forming the internet backbone are owned by private corporations.” The internet “has been privatised at the deepest levels (see Curran, Fenton and Freedman 2016).”
Back to 5G:
The coverage of 5G issues has almost uniformly painted the situation to be about health concerns by tinfoil hat wearers who believe we are to be controlled by very rich Martians who now probably live in Silicon Valley. It is almost exactly the same narrative now foisted on those who question the various vaccines on Covid: ‘microchips by Bill Gates controlling my grandma’ etc. This seems the only allowable response to questions.
Re:5G, Issues that are not covered — from anecdotal memory recall and so I will check this — are increased surveillance, who benefits, how they benefit… and other issues within this remit of surveillance.
Full disclosure: I know people involved in the university 5G research — I feel very positive towards these people. Some are Greek, they are friendly, open and easy to talk to;
I know people who are campaigning against 5G for health reasons. I can guarantee they understand none of the actual health issues. These are not well-informed people.
However, I am not dismissing the questions about the health issues because of who the campaigners are.
I haven’t explored the literature either on the health issues or the surveillance/privatisation/control issues. I am agnostic to an extent but my biases lead towards giving prominence to narratives hidden by those who would benefit, and it’s always capital that benefits because capital owns the means of production. But this is not an answer towards what is happening, it’s a disclosure on my beliefs, evidence and biases.
As a case study, it would be useful to look at which media in Bristol have covered which of the 5G narratives, and how.
In the Pervasive Media talk, one of the companies that was discussed was Alphabet, which owns Google and many more companies.
This brings us back to Schlosberg’s research on who controls the media (output). In fact, it’s quite a fun case study because the media facilitators and owners would possibly both have reasons to want to control the narrative about 5G.
Looking at it through a local lens is quite fun in a way because this is a situation split over different boundaries of control. Bristol City Council have said they have no strategy about 5G, they take money/£millions for being part of the pilot for installation of the masts, they have the University of Bristol as city partners/leaders, the masts now apparently (check) need no planning permission to be installed so the council would have no remit over 5G, but it is a local issue. It is happening in the local area and affects residents.
So who do the media report on and from when writing about 5G? It could be the ideal case study. Of course, the detriment to its case-study worth would be the overpowering narrative from the media suggesting that anyone who even mentions 5G is a tin-foil hat wearing Martian apologist/lover.