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Wednesday, August 23, 2006 

Is Your Internet Freedom Up For Auction?

So, I’m over at Life’s Journey, and I see a post about the usual “They’re going to Big Brother our blogs!” bit that pops up ever so often on left leaning sites.

You know what I’m talking about, it’s the usual yarn about why we all need our tinfoil hats on, because Enemy of the State blogs (like most lefties think they are) are being targeted by evil “neo-cons” and “capitalists”… bla bla bla

But anyway, she (betmo at Life’s Journey) linked to an “article” over at The Nation: a liberal site mildly based on news with a heavy dose of opinion (think: newspaper of nothing but Op-Ed pieces).

Well, I read this long (I mean LONG) article posted about a new telecommunications reform bill, being pushed by Republican Senator Ted Stevens, that would essentially “sets the stage for the privatized, consolidated and unregulated communications system.” While I understand that the idea of privatizing things that have been regulated by the government for long periods of time always scares liberals (it deviates too far from socialism), I really took the time to read this one because I was hoping that aside from the innuendo of “capitalist greed” and “unfair monopoly” that would be the ruin of us all, I’d get some nugget that would actually justify any protest of this aside from the usual partisan politics.

My efforts were rewarded. Although I think the author should have pointed this out first to avoid the risk of losing other less patient readers, here is some justification that I can really get into:

“Absent net neutrality and other safeguards, the phone/cable plan seeks to impose what is called a "policy-based" broadband system that creates "rules" of service for every user and online content provider. How much one can afford to spend would determine the range and quality of digital media access. Broadband connections would be governed by ever-vigilant network software engaged in "traffic policing" to insure each user couldn't exceed the "granted resources" supervised by "admission control" technologies. Mechanisms are being put in place so our monopoly providers can "differentiate charging in real time for a wide range of applications and events." Among the services that can form the basis of new revenues, notes Alcatel, is online content related to "community, forums, Internet access, information, news, find your way (navigation), marketing push, and health monitoring."

Now, why does this one hit me? Because this type of control is currently being used in everyone’s cable television plans right now. Sure, you have access to all the basic channels… but for just a little more, you can get access to the “expanded” or “deluxe” channel set. And for even more, they’ll give it to you in HD, and maybe toss in some movie channels.

That’s fine, but what happens if they expand that mentality to the internet? What happens when all the “basic” websites are available, but anything linked from Google or Yahoo require the “expanded” service? What happens when all online Flash media requires the “Deluxe” package? How about when they start putting the same type of filters that your work uses to keep you out of things, and just make you pay for the more open ranged access?

Not so funny now huh? Not so “typical liberal hysteria” anymore? I think I’ll watch this one a bit more closely. I know that media companies are in it to make money. And I know that putting a price on unfiltered internet would make for a quick buck, and I know that with that mechanism in place, our own capitalism would be the United States new version of the Chinese government’s web control. Freedom to access and interact with free-flowing information is one of the things that make us strong, and whether it be totalitarian government, or corporations vying for market share, we cannot allow that to be risked.