Monday :: Aug 21, 2006

Slamming The Golden Door

by pessimist

We've been discussing corporate governance lately, and nothing can make that more of a reality than to lose the Internet to a metering, pay-for-play system. It would completely kill sites like The Left Coaster and cost users not only billions of additional dollars at a time when the cost of everything else is going up while wages go down - it could also cost us our nation.

Congress Poised to Unravel the Internet
by Jeffrey Chester
August 18, 2006 (web only)

The telecommunications reform bill now moving through Congress threatens to be a major setback for those who hope that digital media can foster a more democratic society. In both the House and Senate versions of the bill, Americans are described as "consumers" and "subscribers," not citizens deserving substantial rights when it comes to the creation and distribution of digital media.

A handful of companies stand to gain incredible monopoly power from such legislation, especially AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. They have already used their political clout in Washington to secure for the phone and cable industries a stunning 98 percent control of the US residential market for high-speed Internet.

Missing from the current legislative debate on communications is how the plans of cable and phone companies threaten civic participation, the free flow of information and meaningful competition.

Nor do the House or Senate versions of the bill
insure that the public will receive
high-speed Internet service at a reasonable price.
According to market analysts, the costs US users pay for broadband service is more than eight times higher than what subscribers pay in Japan and South Korea.
Japanese consumers pay a mere 75 cents per megabit. South Koreans are charged only 73 cents. But US users are paying $6.10 per megabit. Internet service abroad is also much faster than it is here.
Why are US online users being held hostage to higher rates at slower speeds? Blame the business plans of the phone and cable companies.

You know - the ones who own the Pretzeldunce and his 'government'.

Technologists who know the business offer a glimpse of what could be:

As technology pioneer Bob Frankston and PBS tech columnist Robert Cringely recently explained, the phone and cable companies see our broadband future as merely a "billable event."

Frankston and Cringely urge us to be part of a movement where we--and our communities--are not just passive generators of corporate profit but proactive creators of our own digital futures. That means we would become owners of the "last mile" of fiber wire, the key link to the emerging broadband world.

For about $17 a month, over ten years, the high-speed connections coming to our homes would be ours--not in perpetual hock to phone or cable monopolists. Under such a scenario, notes Cringely, we would just pay around $2 a month for super-speed Internet access.

This would make it affordable for just about everyone, and make dial-up Hell a thing of the past. In addition, it would make it possible for us to stand up in support of traditional American democratic [small d] principles

[P]rogressives need to create a forward-looking telecom policy agenda. They should seek to insure online access for low-income Americans, provide public oversight of broadband services, foster the development of digital communities and make it clear that the public's free speech rights online are paramount.

It's now time to help kill the Stevens "tube" bill and work toward a digital future where Internet access is a right--and not dependent on how much we can pay to "admission control."

Before all you wrong-wingers get all riled up about how the Internet is a private property and its owners can do what it wants with its property - including gouge us and eliminate our last means of free expression - who actually created the Internet in the first place?

The Internet was created by the Pentagon - using taxpayer dollars - through its DARPA project, designed to enable communications in the event of a nuclear war. Gradually, the private sector gained control of it, as they have so many other things the taxpayers paid for. Now, they think that they were the pioneers and innovators and deserve to charge what the markets will bear - or kill them off trying.

If there was no possibility of making huge - and largely undeserved - profits from such activity, they wouldn't be pulling out the heavy artillery to defend the corporate coasts:

Verizon, Comcast and the others are terrified of the Internet as we know it today. Lured by huge checks handed out by the country's top lobbyists, members of Congress could soon strike a blow against Internet freedom as they seek to resolve the hot-button controversy over preserving "network neutrality."

Net neutrality rules would jeopardize their far-reaching plans to transform our digital communications system. Both the cable and phone industries recognize that if their broadband pipes (now a monopoly) must be operated in an open and neutral fashion, they will face real competition--and drastically reduced revenues--from an ever-growing number of lower-cost phone and video providers.

Alcatel, a major technology company helping Verizon and AT&T build their broadband networks, notes in one business white paper that cable and phone companies are "really competing with the Internet as a business model, which is even more formidable than just competing with a few innovative service aggregators such as Google, Yahoo and Skype." (Skype is a telephone service provider using the Internet.)

Alcatel and other broadband equipment firms are helping the phone and cable industries build what will be a reconfigured Internet - one optimized to generate what they call "triple play" profits from "high revenue services such as video, voice and multimedia communications."

Triple play means generating revenues from a single customer who is using a bundle of services for phone, TV and PC - at home, at work or via wireless devices.
The corporate system emerging for the United States (and elsewhere in the world) is being designed to boost how much we spend on services, so phone and cable providers can increase what they call our "ARPU" (average revenue per user). This is the "next generation" Internet system being created for us, one purposefully designed to facilitate the needs of a mass consumerist culture.

In other words, they are going to squeeze us lemons until the seeds run dry:

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."

Internet access, information, news, community, forums... all of these affect us all here at The Left Coaster. Without Internet access, none of us would be here in the first place. All of us are already paying for that access.

Much information and news is already becoming subscription, limiting access to those who can pay for it.

Community is hard enough to promote without adding the additional burden of making people pay for getting together over the Internet without making discussion forums like TLC merely the domain of those with money.

This is what it has come down to, folks. Those who worship Mammon have decreed that only those who believe as they do, who exploit their fellow man as if merely a crop to be harvested for personal gain, want to take away one of the last things We, the People have left - our freedom of speech.

As numerous court cases have found, free speech can be prevented on private property by the owner of the property for any reason the property owner deems sufficient. Can we trust the corporate entities seeking to limit Internet access to those with fat wallets to continue to allow free discussion, especially when it will affect their profits?

No. They will seek to limit discussion to those topics which will enhance them - much as is done on FAUX 'Newz'.

But as the infamous Kelo decision held, private property can be taken away from the owner to provide for the public good. Keeping the Internet free from the sort of Draconian pricing that is being planned qualifies for that sort of action in my opinion.

So it's up to you to save the Internet as we know it. Here are the political players involved, and the current scenario in Congress:

Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens, the powerful Commerce Committee chair, is trying to line up votes for his Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act. Stevens is hunkering down to get his bill passed by the Senate when it reconvenes in September.
Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden,
Maine Republican Olympia Snowe
and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan
have joined forces to protect the US Internet.
Wyden has placed a "hold" on the bill, requiring Stevens (and the phone and cable lobbies) to strong-arm sixty colleagues to prevent a filibuster. But with a number of GOP senators in tight races now fearful of opposing net neutrality, the bill's chances for passage before the midterm election are slim. Stevens may be able to gain enough support for passage when Congress returns for a lame-duck session.

If that happens, then Bu$hCo dominates the available information, and no one will be able to challenge them ever again. The corporate reach into what remains of your purchasing power extends even deeper, taking more from you to keep what you deem vital - no matter what it is.

And the Greed grows. We're told that is good. But is it? Really? Put your money where their mouth is.

Is that something You want to pay dearly for?

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pessimist :: 3:21 AM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!