A Rapacious Infrastructure

I’ve worked in the tech industry since 1998. Mostly, I’ve been building websites or more precisely, web applications. I’ve primarily worked in that middle space between the average business website and the larger infrastructure of the Internet. I build applications that are themselves the product or which enable some other product that the company may offer.

That means that for the last 23 years I’ve been a consumer, in one form or another, of the larger infrastructure companies that dominate tech today. Be that Microsoft, Google, or Amazon. These companies provide the bulk of the physical and material backbone behind almost all of the Internet. We’ve known for a long time that the data centers they run (and that large services like Facebook run) are environmentally disastrous. They are huge power and water users. They are eyesore blights wherever they are built. They are designed to run with minimal staffing so they don’t even provide many jobs.

It won’t surprise you then that they are also horrible employers and local citizens which often take advantage of sweetheart tax deals to extract the maximum from any community they are in without giving anything back. This shouldn’t surprise anyone paying half attention to anything else these companies do.

What can we as builders who use these services do? What can we as users of sites that use these services do? Can we democratize and decentralize? How does that work in a world with laws and regulations about data protection and privacy such as the healthcare world I currently work in? Are there viable alternatives?

These questions are just surface layer avoidance type questions. At a deeper level, we should examine the processes by which our local governments accept these deals. Where is the money going? Why are these kinds of deals repeatedly agreed to when there’s overwhelming evidence that they never pay out? Maybe there’s greater power in working locally to make it harder for these companies to act this way.