Friday, March 03, 2006

The End of Internet?

America's largest telephone and cable companies are trying very hard to find ways through political lobbying to charge people more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail.
The Progress and the Freedom Foundation (don't you just like that creative name?) is actually a corporate think-tank that aims at transforming the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything done online. Their idea is to establish "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.
As a result the phone and cable lobbyists have started a political campaign to weaken even more the nation's communications policy laws and thus eliminate regulatory safeguards requiring phone companies to operate as nondiscriminatory networks (also known as "common carriers"). They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as strictly private networks, free of any governmental oversight or regluation.
It seems that both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are now considering their proposals which would ultimately turn the Internet highways into major tollways.
On NBC last night the spokesman for the Progress and the Freedom Foundation had the guts to deny the obvious:
"I don't think this is corporate greed," he says. "This is the beginning of a new business model for the Internet."
That's probably why they have to take a deceiving name such as the "Progress and Freedom Foundation". I grant you that lobbyist names are always deceiving but that one takes the idea to an extreme, doesn't it? It is however remarkable that NBC was able to deal with the issue on its NightlyNews given that its parent company is a member of the corporate lobby.
The paradoxical result is that pressure groups from both the right (Gun Owners of America) and the left (MoveOn.org) have found common ground in their fight against what they consider an assault on fundamental freedoms.
As always in American politics the fight will be tough and bloody.
More to read here and here.

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