Assault on a democratic Internet

AOL’s and Yahoo’s moneygrubbing plan to charge postage for email is nothing compared to the telecommunications industry’s agenda. In the current issue of The Nation, Jeff Chester explores efforts of the “nation’s largest telephone and cable companies” to “transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.”

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets — corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers — would get preferred treatment….

Under the plans they are considering, all of us — from content providers to individual users — would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing “platinum,” “gold” and “silver” levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.

Chester’s book on US media politics, Digital Destiny, comes out this fall from The New Press.


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