One of the downsides is the cost of surveillance.
Broadband Internet would be ubiquitous and cheap if it weren’t for one thing, the government severely limits competition. In any given area there is generally only one telephone company with physical plant, one cable company with physical plant, and two wireless carriers with physical plant. And these companies are invariably giant multinational corporations. Everyone else resells the physical facilities these companies own and operate.
The reason this is so is the government has legislated monopolies for these companies. Why? Well, for one thing their lobbyists have contributed heavily to the legislators and misrepresentatives election campaigns, but another reason has to do with the NSA rooms where they intercept all internet and telephone traffic. They generally do this at locations where carriers exchange traffic and so to be able to do this efficiently they have to limit the number of these locations and the number of carriers.
The reason Internet, Telephone, and Cable service is expensive beyond the natural cost of providing the service is government mandated monopolies, or duopolies in the case of wireless carriers, aimed at making the surveillance and filtering of your telephone conversations, Internet access, and television programming, cost effective for the government to carry out.
It is the filtering aspect of this that troubles me even more than the surveillance aspects but really both are troubling. This makes a free society impossible because anyone who opposes the status quo can’t effectively organize political opposition because the parties in power both can monitor and disrupt their activities and prevent their ideas from gaining political exposure. Yes, we play the game where they make it look like there is a wide range of political diversity between the Republicans and Democrats, we shut down the government supposedly even, really we only shut down the few humanitarian services the government offers, the war machine marches on, but it’s really just a game.
Both parties really do the same thing, take all the resources from the common people and put them in the hands of the ruling elite which uses them to further consolidate power and feed the military-industrial complex war machine.