Is it really “The End of the Internet?”

The article “The End of the Internet?� by Jeff Chester linked to by Fait accompli via woods lot makes me wonder how long it will be before commercial interests make the internet as irrelevant as TV has become to me. It’s an informative article that’s well worth reading.

Chester argues that:

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would 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.

Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from content providers to individual users--would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "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.

While it comes as little shock that the telephone and cable companies want to make more money, it is most surprising that this is the first time I’ve heard about this.

Considering how important free access is to the internet, why haven’t I heard that:

… 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.

Why haven’t any of the many associations I belong to sent heads-up warnings that I need to contact my congressmen or write letters to the head of the FCC?

To me, the major appeal of the web is the free access to information that I would otherwise never have access to, in particular, access to weblogs written by people whose views I would never hear except for the web. While I do access much of my news on the web, with a few notable exceptions there’s little that I couldn’t already get from my local newspaper or my cable programs. However, I agree whole heartedly with Chester when he argues that:

If we permit the Internet to become a medium designed primarily to serve the interests of marketing and personal consumption, rather than global civic-related communications, we will face the political consequences for decades to come. Unless we push back, the "brandwashing" of America will permeate not only our information infrastructure but global society and culture as well.

For this administration “public good� seems to be synonymous with making money. They seem unable to see the fallacy in arguments like “What’s good for GM is good for America.� One almost wonders if this administration isn’t consciously trying to implement the philosophy Aldous Huxley made so famous in Brave New World.

As if to confirm Chester’s concerns, this article about corporate giants charging for email appeared Saturday in the the New York Times informing us that

Companies will soon have to buy the electronic equivalent of a postage stamp if they want to be certain that their e-mail will be delivered to many of their customers.

and that

America Online and Yahoo, two of the world's largest providers of e-mail accounts, are about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from 1/4 of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered. The senders must promise to contact only people who have agreed to receive their messages, or risk being blocked entirely.

An article in the BBC news entitled E-mail charging plan to beat spam puts a better spin on these changes, but one has to wonder whether these charges are merely the foot in the door for greater charges coming down the fiber optic cables.

Are you old enough to remember when you bought cable TV to avoid the constant commercials, or when you went to the movies to see the movies and not an endless string of commercials, previews, and more commercials as you wait for the show you came to see actually begin?

3 thoughts on “Is it really “The End of the Internet?”

  1. Hi Loren,

    That is very disturbing indeed. I’m hoping the powers that be will realize that this is the World Wide Web and not just the American Web and such maneuvers would be putting America at a disadvantage by limiting (American citizens) access to information while letting other countries have free rein. I suppose other countries might go for the profit motive but it is the insightful ones that will take advantage of such a grave miscalculation on our part.

    Idiots! (think Napoleon Dynamite)

  2. …as we know it. Unless there’s some rude end to the carte blanche corporate interests have in getting laws tailor-made for their profit, and I can’t see one coming fast enough, yes.

  3. Yes, I am old enough to remember movies without commercials, etc. I will rebel if somehow the things of which you speak are brought into effect. They simply cannot now make us pay for what we have been getting all along, can they? If people abdicate the web in droves if asked to pay, won’t some altruistic people come up with another way to get it as we do now?

What do you think?