Friday, February 03, 2006

How corporate Amerika intends to hijack the web

The Shackles Of The Net

The link above is an informative report from last night's late edition at CBS news. It has the obvious Amerikan slant but the message is something we in Britain sould be concerned about too.

Telecommunications and cable companies are not the only ones involved here, but they are the front-runners in this new race powered by corporate greed. It is already almost impossible to access the web for free anymore and with broadband many providers are also limiting bandwidth use. Talk about their precious "pipes" is a nonesense - having invested in the infrastructure the ISPs are "service providers" and recoup their money from just that. Limiting access the way they envisage is not direct censorship, but by proclaiming themselves "content providers" too they are effectively seeking to control our use of the web. Only the wealthy will be able to afford the bandwidth time and width to use the electronic highway properly and even they will suffer the onslaught of preffered advertising that will garner vast sums of additional revenue for the corporates concerned.

It is websites themselves who are the content providers on the public internet and the democratic nature of the web is further threatened if audience exposure is limited to those who join up and subscribe to a system of inter-corporate hierarchy. Contractual obligations would either stop or severely hinder our access to sites and materials that were not themselves woven into the fabric of services available from any individual ISP, with small organisations and businesses relegated to the depths of a no-doubt highly customised interface. The obvious parallel is the giant supermarket chains that have all but obliterated the independent retail sector and the service once provided by local shops.

I said that this is not direct censorship, but it is censorship in a subtle form. More importantly, it plays into the hands of those who would impose direct censorship. Totalitarian-minded government will always find a way to harness the vast corporate databases and tracking systems when it is deemed they need it.

Nor is the threat only one that affects internet users. Digital convergance means that the web is joining up with television and all other home electronic delivery systems. Those "pipelines" are supply are no longer luxuries - they are essential for all contemporary communication and our access to knowledge. Information is power and the price is set to render it available only to the affluent elite. Ironically, even they will probably find themselves fed a version of truth and reality defined by advertisers and the propaganda machine. Only those at the very top of the pile will really have uncluttered access to everything without distraction and there will be nothing democratic or publicly well-intentioned in those circles.

The CBS piece also contains some very useful links. Pursue them while you can!


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