Friday, March 10, 2006

Virtual Discrimination

Jeff Chester has a disturbing piece in The Nation detailing the communication industry's attempt to discriminate against online content they don't get a cut from.
The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would 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. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.
It's a truism that the internet allows communication and associational possibilities only dreamed of decades ago. It's a vital sinew of post-industrial democracy. Will Congress sell more of our rights -- however virtual -- on the market for campaign donations? If Vegas set the odds I'd say put your money of the special interests.

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