End of the Internet?

The Feb. 13 issue of The Nation includes a story by Jeff Chester,executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, that I highly recommend you read. The article warns that the biggest US communications and cable companies want to “transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.”

Scary stuff.

Here’s an excerpt:

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets–corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers–would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out. …

To make this pay-to-play vision a reality, phone and cable lobbyists are now engaged in a political campaign to further weaken the nation’s communications policy laws. They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. Indeed, both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are considering proposals that will have far-reaching impact on the Internet’s future. Ten years after passage of the ill-advised Telecommunications Act of 1996, telephone and cable companies are using the same political snake oil to convince compromised or clueless lawmakers to subvert the Internet into a turbo-charged digital retail machine.

And they might succeed. Do read the article in its entirety and keep yourself informed on this issue. I suspect we will hear a lot more about this in the not-too-distant future.

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