Monday, April 24, 2006

Your Internet Service Is Under Attack

You read that correctly. The Internet is under attack but it is not by hackers or terrorists hoping to take down this vital medium of commerce and communication. No, it is the telecommunications industry who is lobbying the government to overturn the concept of Network Neutrality. I actually wrote about this two weeks ago without even realizing the full implications of the topic. In that post I referenced an article that talked about Google, eBay and Amazon banding together to build and operate their own network in response to what amounts to extortion by AT&T. After doing some more reading today, I am utterly appalled to learn the full story and how this has been completely ignored by the so-called main stream media.

In essence, Google was told by AT&T that, because of site traffic, AT&T would restrict their ISP users' ability to access Google unless the company paid AT&T for more bandwidth. If Google doesn't comply, AT&T could restrict or severely slow traffic to Google for users who access the Internet through AT&T. AT&T could cut a deal with a competing search engine who would pay money to AT&T in return for better access than Google. According to SaveTheInternet.com, this is only the beginning.

How would the gutting of Network Neutrality affect you?

  • Google users - Another search engine could pay dominant Internet providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens faster than Google on your computer.
  • Innovators with the "next big idea" - Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy will be left in the "slow lane" with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.
  • iPod listeners - A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
  • Political groups - Political organizing could be slowed by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay "protection money" for their websites and online features to work correctly.
  • Nonprofits - A charity's website could open at snail-speed, and online contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can't pay dominant Internet providers for access to "the fast lane" of Internet service.
  • Online purchasers - Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices -- distorting your choice as a consumer.
  • Small businesses and tele-commuters - When Internet companies like AT&T favor their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.
  • Parents and retirees - Your choices as a consumer could be controlled by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc.
  • Bloggers - Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clip silencing citizen -- journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.


The article further goes on to further cite specific instances of these types of practices that haoccurredady occured in the US and Canada.

Corporate control of the Web would reduce your choices and stifle the spread of innovative and independent ideas that we've come to expect online. It would throw the digital revolution into reverse. Internet gatekeepers are already discriminating against Web sites and services they don't like:
  • 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 contentious labor dispute.
  • Shaw, a major 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.

This is just the beginning. Cable and telco giants want to eliminate the Internet's open road in favor of a tollway that protects their status quo while stifling new ideas and innovation. If they get their way, they'll shut down the free flow of information and dictate how you use the Internet.

Sorry for quoting almost the entire article, but there was no better way to summarize the information and the importance. I know that I was only recently on a soapbox about tax freedom, but this is an extremely important issue as well; perhaps even more so. Congress will be voting on this issue very soon and right now they are getting more input from the telecommunications industry than the average Internet user. We as consumers must tell them what we want and we must tell them now. Please write to your congressional representatives and implore them to vote for the people. I and the rest of the Internet users in this country thank you.


UPDATE: A two-minute illustration of Network Neutrality.

1 comment:

roxanne said...

This sounds a bit Chinese to me.