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Controlling the Future of the Internet


Message from Jay K (no relation)

caro, I'm wondering why I'm not seeing more articles on your site and in your newsletters about the ongoing assaut on the internet. I am getting increasingly concerned about this valuable tool of free speech being seriously compromised by the big corporations. My internet friends (mostly foreign ones) are increasingly talking about an "internet 2" that is ready to be put into place and will for the most part turn the web into one more arm of the right-wing propaganda machine. I'm seeing petitions to stop AOL's proposed "email tax", but I haven't really seen you post much coverage on the subject. I'm not saying this to be critical, I'm just wondering if the whole thing is being blown out of proportion or is the web really at risk?

My response

It's not that I'm not concerned, but far more powerful folks than I have taken up that cudgel, for one.

I remember the days of the bulletin boards, before the world wide web even existed. That's the world that AOL grew up in, and its management wants back the kind of control over (and ability to charge for) content they had then. Bill Gates is with AOL in wanting to privatize the freeways of the online world, so that he can rake in more bucks, too. I don’t know much about Yahoo, but most of the biggies are trying to figure out ways to make more money from the online community.

I believe there are a number of new networks in the planning stages, and some being implemented. Long-time readers of MakeThemAccountable know that one of my predictions is that all of our connectivity with the outside world will someday be mediated over some network or other, or combination of networks. We’ll probably continue to call it the “Internet” unless someone comes up with something snazzier.

There are a number of technologies involved--fiber optics, microwave, radio frequency, even electrical transmission wires(!), and various combinations that are being studied for data transmission. Routers, servers, and software will all have to be much more efficient than they have been in the past, to manage the huge loads of movies, television shows, and other graphical presentations and communications that will be available on demand.

There will be content and services that we will pay for, in addition to buying access itself to one or more of the networks. But there will continue to be free access sites as well. You just can’t stuff the genie back into the bottle to re-create the online world of the 80s. But I think we’re more likely to be transferring dollars from independent telephone, cable, and Internet connectivity services than to be spending MORE on these new subscriptions and networks.

One of the things I’d like to do, if I could ever get some funding from SOMEWHERE for SOMETHING, is to build an online subscription service for progressives. That way, we can support the fledgling Internet-based alternative media. It would give people with limited donation dollars, who aren’t sure which website(s) they should give money to, the knowledge that they’re helping many progressive websites. If we build a big enough base, we could start our own high-speed service and dictate our terms to these giants who want to charge us more and more and more.

I’ve tried to talk to Working Assets about this possibility, but there seems to be no one at home there. No one returned my phone call. Their customer base would be the perfect starting point for what I want to do.

Carolyn Kay

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Last changed: December 13, 2009