miércoles, febrero 08, 2006

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies have a vision for the Internet's future. Verizon, AT&T (formerly SBC), Comcast, and Bell South want to create a privately run and branded "pay-as-you-go" Internet, making everything we do online a "billable," revenue-generating service. Our every cyberspace move will be tracked and stored so we can be better marketed to (a data collection system that might even rival the NSA's!). Those with the deepest pockets--think corporate special interest groups and major advertisers--will get preferred treatment. Their content will show up (and be processed) the fastest on our computer and television screens. Content seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, may be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out, say "white papers" and other documents given to the cable and phone industry.

Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from large to small content providers to individual users--will have to pay more when surfing online, streaming videos, or perhaps even sending and receiving email. Companies are mulling the imposition of new subscription plans that will limit our online experience. There will be "gold," bronze," and "silver" forms of Internet access that tightly define what they call our "level of service" (limiting how much downloading we can do, etc.)

Gone will be the more open and nondiscriminatory network of today.

To help ensure that their "vision" succeeds, the phone and cable lobbies are now engaged in a political campaign to further weaken the nation's communication policy laws. Both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are considering proposals that will have a far-reaching impact on the Internet's future. They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as "private" networks--without policy safeguards or governmental oversight. Telephone and cable companies are now using the same kind of political snake oil that helped them pass the now-infamous 1996 Telecommunications Act (ten years ago on Feb 8, 1996). They have unleashed the tried-and-true rhetoric designed to lure compromised and clueless lawmakers. Our proposals, they claim, will "empower the consumer" and lead to "innovation." But these are code words used to cloak their real goal: to turn the Internet into a turbocharged digital retail machine.

The telephone industry has been somewhat more candid than cable about its plans for the Internet. Senior phone executives have publicly discussed their plans to begin imposing a new scheme for the delivery of Internet content, especially from major Internet content companies. As Ed Whitacre, CEO of AT&T, told Business Week in November, "Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"

The phone industry has been unleashing its political allies to help win it the freedom to begin imposing its broadband business model. At a conference held in December by the pro-cable and -Bell "think-tank" Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), there was support for the idea that it is okay for phone companies to begin charging some content users more and others less. "Price discrimination," noted PFF's resident media expert Adam Thierer, "drives the market-based capitalist economy." That's "good discrimination." Not surprisingly, PFF, is funded by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and many other media companies. (PFF is also part of the conservative State Policy Network lobbying machine. SPN groups have increasingly been working to promote Big Media interests.)

0 Comentarios:

Publicar un comentario

Suscribirse a Comentarios de la entrada [Atom]

<< Página Principal