The status quo fights back

I’ve been meaning to get my 2‑cents in on what’s happening in Washington and with the telcos that own the pipes that we use for the internet. So significant are these events, that we all simply MUST let our representatives know how we feel, unless we want to lose the freedom we’ve grown to enjoy online. Frankly, the horse is so far out of the barn, it’s hard to believe it could ever be put back, but the ability of Washington to do things contrary to the wishes of the people is something that should never be underestimated.

There are two things happening. One is net neutrality, an issue that the telcos don’t want, because they want to be able to offer tiered pricing, which will benefit only those who have the ability to pay — the deep pockets of the few. We must keep this from happening, but there is considerable lobbying pressure on Congress to make the change.

There are two things worth noting here. One, we already pay for the internet. The web happened via telephone lines that we were already paying for too. The telcos feel they’ve lost out in this, so they want to put toll gates on lines for which we already pay. That means the best broadband will go to the few, and we can’t let that happen.

Secondly, what we need to be encouraging Congress to do is just the opposite, and that is to open the internet to symmetrical service. Right now, it’s asymmetrical — you get much more download bandwidth than upload, and this stifles entrepreneurship and innovation, and keeps a lid on the development of the personal media revolution. Asymmetrical service is what the status quo wants, because that, too, benefits the deep pockets of the few.

The other issue is the merging of the telcos. Didn’t we go through this once when the government broke up AT&T? Why are we (our government) letting the monopoly reassemble? Dan Gilmor has a great post on the pending $65 billion deal with the “new” AT&T and Bellsouth.

If this deal goes through — and given the Bush administration’s (and Congress’) willful blindness to the implications of a telecom world dominated by only a few, and soon only a couple, of predatory giants — Verizon will surely buy Qwest. Why wouldn’t they?

We’re moving into troublesome times, where rapacious mega-companies, steeped in monopolistic traditions, assert utter control over our communications. If you think they won’t use their market power to stifle innovation they don’t control (or from which they get a cut of any action) you don’t study history.

What can average folks do? Complain to Congress, of course. Sadly, this has less and less effect in a political system that is increasingly of, by and for the wealthy and powerful.

These are important areas to watch, and more importantly, to get involved. Call, write, petition. Do what you can to tell them to stop this nonsense.

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