Okay, so here’s a story that’s been all over the internets for the past week or two. But I admit, even as someone as NetNutty as I didn’t pay all that much attention.
Now, part of that may be been because The Baby is a mere week and a half old. But it’s also that I didn’t take it seriously.
But when you’ve got my pals the ACLU joining up with the NRA to fight something, well, that gets even my sleep-deprived attention.
I wrote about how great the internets are a while back, and quoted an article from a Duke professor talking about how A Perfect Stahm had to be in place for the internets to have taken off the way they did, and how such a thang could never happen today.
Looks like the good perfesser was more right than he knew. Some folks are trying to turn the clock back and make sure this world wide web thingie works just the way they—and only they—want. Of course, the They in question have hundreds of billions of dollars. And us Left of the Dial folks? Yeah, not so much.
Basically, here’s the dealio: the government is thinking about allowing Internet Service Providers to decide what websites you can or cannot go to, and who can or cannot send you emails. In other words, if this goes through, you may not be able to link to Left of the Dial unless I’ve paid your specific ISP a fee. Otherwise I’ll get blackballed. Kinda like legalized payola.
Apocalyptic? Obviously, being denied your daily dose of The Dial would be pretty damn catastrophic. And yet Big Bidniz might just push this through if we’re not all careful.
Check this out--and you should click through to that link, incidentally, because it backs up its statements with further links for you to explore.
Background on the Issue: The internet is open because private companies haven't been allowed to block content they don't like. Now the telcos want to make it so they can block what you see.
The Threat to You is real: Telcos have already blocked competing services, censored emails, and prevented customers from reading political web sites. Why do you assume they care about your rights?
Come On, This Isn't Really Happening: Fine, don't believe me. Ignore the fact that the CEO of AT&T is on record that this is going to happen.
Explaining the Players in the Fight: It's a corporate cartel with bought and paid lobbyists versus a free market and citizens groups.
Okay. Now check this out:
* In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.
* In 2005, Canada's telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute.
* Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers who want to use a competing Internet telephone service.
* In April, Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com -- an advocacy campaign opposing the company's pay-to-send e-mail scheme.
You get that last one? Why on earth wasn’t that huge news? Hmm…maybe because TimeWarner controls so much the media? (He says, speaking from some experience.)
What’s that you say? You’re terrified that your Left of the Dial might just go bye-bye? Well, that’s understandable.
Still think it's not going to happen? That these companies wouldn't dare to alienate the entire Internet-using community? Well, think about how much fun it is to deal with Comcast for your cable, and how much flexibility they're willing to offer. Also consider this comment from Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC Comm., when he was asked about how concerned he was about losing ground to Internet upstarts:
"How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?
"The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"
It's not about the customer, you see, it's about their profits. So if a giant retailer like Barnes and Noble wanted to screw the competition, they could pay the right ISPs, the right networks, and make sure that traffic to a site like Powells.com would run much slower. Or they could guarantee one Internet search engine that their engine would run much faster than anothers. If one of the network providers developed a music service, they could slow down your access to iTunes. Non-profits could be squeezed off of the Internet if they couldn't pay for the "fast-lane" of Internet service.
So if this goes through, it’ll be legal for your ISP to cut off service to Left of the Dial because they’re offended by my saying President George W. Bush is a liar. Or maybe they’ll cut off your Left of the Dial because they’re offended by my saying that Hilary Rodham Clinton is a power-mad weasel unwilling to take a stand on principle. [Both statements are correct, incidentally. Just for the record.] Who knows what’ll set ‘em off?
Because it doesn’t matter. If this goes through they can do it. And just think of how that’ll screw us all up. What if you can’t access Amazon anymore? Or Google?
Or Sweet Baby Jesu, what if you can’t get your Left of the Dial?
I’m pretty sure that’s the fourth sign of the apocalypse.
But it don’t have to happen. Call your Congresscritters and say "I want my internets!"