Wednesday, 30 October 2002

How Industry Intends To Kill The Internet As We Know It

The Internet's promise as a new medium -- where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged -- is under attack by the corporations that control the publicâs access to the 'Net, as they see opportunities to monitor and charge for the content people seek and send. The industry's vision is the online equivalent of seizing the taxpayer-owned airways, as radio and television conglomerates did over the course of the 20th century.

To achieve this, the cable industry, which sells Internet access to most Americans, is pursuing multiple strategies to closely monitor and tightly control subscribers and their use of the net. One element can be seen in industry lobbying for new use-based pricing schemes, which has been widely reported in trade press. Related to this is the industry's new public relations campaign, which seeks to introduce a new "menace" into the pricing debate and boost their case, the so-called "bandwidth hog."

But beyond political and press circles are another equally important development: new technologies being developed and embraced that can, in practice, transform today's open Internet into a new industry-regulated system that will prevent or discourage people from using the net for file-sharing, internet radio and video, and peer-to-peer communications. These are not merely the most popular cutting-edge applications used by young people; they also are the tools for fundamental new ways of conducting business and politics.

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