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privatizing the internet « Previous | |Next »
April 26, 2006

I mentioned The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. I'm much impressed by the idea of a non market mode of production and the way this is linked to individual autonomy and the public sphere.

I reckon this only gets off the ground if the internet---the information superhighway--- is public owned, free and accessible to all. The Americans call it net neutrality, by which they mean keeping the Internet a level playing field for all businesses and individuals. Net neutrality prevents telephone and cable companies from deciding which Web sites work best for you -- based on what site pays them the most. Apparently the US Congress is getting ready to the privatize the Internet by making American's pay for the services they now for free. It's sort of legalizing the payment of protection money to ensure easy access to the backbone and other tier providers.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo describes the scenario thus:

The Internet could have evolved very, very differently. It could have turned in to one or two big proprietary networks — maybe AOL and Compuserve, or AOL and MSN, each closed, each controlled by one company, without the dynamism, freedom and entrepreneurial magic we associate with the web. The big media offerings would be easy to get to and easy to download while the blogs and other moderately funded alternatives, right and left, had to make do with second or third tier access....Think of it like Cable TV. Anybody can start a cable channel. But if you can’t get on TimeWarner Cable here in Manhattan, for me you might as well not even exist. The Internet could work like that.

Exchange AOL for Telstra ad Optus for Australia and t you can see the temptation for them to create a internet where subscribers, content providers could be charged for access to and delivery of premium content that at one time was paid for by broadband subscriber fees alone.

The New Matilda submission to the Department of Communications, in response to Meeting the digital challenge, Minister Helen Coonan’s discussion paper on media reform, addresses this issue by stating that Telstra should be required to provide the necessary broadband and other digital service provisions to all Australian households, regardless of establishment costs, as a part of its public service charter, whether fully privatised or not.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:20 PM | | Comments (0)