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Signs of the Times for Thu, 27 Apr 2006

Signs Editorial:

Thursday April 27th 2006, 8:43 am
Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire

Corporate whores in Congress have officially inaugurated the process of turning the internet into another platform for ephemeral junk culture, an interactive version of television where there are 500 channels and nothing on. "Internet carriers, including AT&T Inc., have been strident supporters of upending the Internet's tradition of network neutrality and have lobbied Congress to make it happen. They argue that Web sites, particularly those featuring video and audio that require significant bandwidth, should be able to pay extra so that users don't have to wait as long for downloads," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. "Internet carriers say they would use the money they earn to expand the Internet's capacity." I suppose this would operate the same way multinational oil corporations use their massive profits to search for new oil reserves or expand refining capacity. "By a 34-22 vote, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected a Democratic-backed Net neutrality amendment that also enjoyed support from Internet and software companies including Microsoft, and Google," writes Declan McCullagh for CNET News.

In the early 90s, I was drawn to the internet primarily because it was a decentralized communication medium born as a "neutral network," that is to say no one interest or body controlled the entire network or even large chunks. "When Tim Berners-Lee started to sell the idea of a 'World Wide Web', he did not need to seek the approval of network owners to allow the protocols that built the internet to run," writes Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. "Likewise, when eBay launched its auction service, or Amazon its bookselling service, neither needed the permission of the telephone companies before those services could take off. Because the internet was 'end-to-end', innovators and users were free to offer new content, new applications or even new protocols for communication without any permission from the network. So long as these new applications obeyed simple internet protocols ('TCP/IP'), the internet was open to their ideas. The network did not pick and choose the applications or content it would support; it was neutral, leaving that choice to the users."

Congress, as a craven and slavish handmaid to corporate interests and domination, is in the process of squashing internet neutrality. It's all about control and corporate centralization, not innovation and expanding capacity. It's about making sure the internet serves the commercial and political purposes of large corporations. It's also about locking the alternative media out of the only effective medium it has at its disposal. If you doubt this, see if you can find a truth movement channel on one of your 500 cable television channels.

Once upon a time, television was considered part of the public commons and its signal was transmitted over airwaves owned by the people. It was stolen and hopes dashed in short order by private and corporate interests many decades ago. Even the charade of noblesse oblige-or corporate broadcasters pretending to be trustees obliged to protect what the people own, or think they own-is long gone and the Fairness Doctrine is dead as well, killed by "deregulation" (an excuse for theft by corporate leviathans) under Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

In fact, the airwaves have become, like virtually everything else of value, a "raw commodity for financial speculation," as David Bollier writes.

Public access television-an arrangement made between mega-corporations and the public when the medium was handed over by thieves and charlatans operating out of the whorehouse on the Potomac-is now an endangered species. Senate Bill 1349 and House Bill 3146 endeavored to eliminate local cable television franchises, long considered an "obstacle" by massive telecoms. If you don't believe there will be a repeat of this in regard to the internet, I have a bridge to sell you.

"Broadband providers now have the same authority as cable providers to act as gatekeepers: the network owner can choose which services and equipment consumers may use," explains John Windhausen, Jr. "Network operators can adopt conflicting and proprietary standards for the attachment of consumer equipment, can steer consumers to certain web sites over others, can block whatever Internet services or applications they like, and make their preferred applications perform better than others.... open broadband networks are vitally important to our society, our future economic growth, our high-tech manufacturing sector, and our First Amendment rights to information free of censorship or control. Even if an openness policy imposes some slight burden on network operators, these microeconomic concerns pale in comparison to the macroeconomic benefits to the society and economy at large of maintaining an open Internet."

In the future, we may be relegated to the "slow lane" (no video or audio), or locked out entirely if a telecom disagrees with our content. Free expression of ideas, especially ideas contrary to those of the neolib global elite and transnational corporations, are now at risk more than ever.

It should be remembered that corporatism is essentially fascism, as the grand daddy of fascism, Benito Mussolini, long ago explained. Fascists not only favor and enforce censorship-ultimately they violently suppress all opposition.

In the not too distant future, as the internet becomes yet another tawdry and dumbed-down consumerist venue surrounded by lawyers and gun turrets, we may be reduced to handing out our content via DVD on street corners.

Of course, this will be defined as terrorism and we will be punished accordingly.

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