The internet means a lot to me. Sure, it's not "free", since we pay our ISPs for access, but the internet is a different kind of free than irl.
Social and economic stratification (not to mention the pandemic) have been worsening. Where would we be if we didn't have internet during this absolute dumpster fire of a couple years?
Before the internet, our social circles relied on our geography. We were stuck in whatever community we happened to live in.
I grew up hanging out in chatrooms, on forums and online games. If I didn't have the internet, I would have been completely alone until I became an adult.
These are just my circumstances, but there are so many others that result in the same conclusion - whether someone lives in a rural town where they're not safe to be themselves, or maybe they're in a restrictive abusive relationship - what other social resources would they have?
Even beyond that, where do people go nowadays? A bar? Disney? Nah, not for me. It's bad enough you need a car to drive everywhere if you're not smack dab in the middle of an un-affordable city.
It's a struggle being online nowadays. We're tracked everywhere we go, and bombarded with ads and paywalls at every turn. Communities on most major social networks have been algorithm'ed into a toxic mess.