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Phone and Cable Companies: Dangerous to Citizen Media

CNN: Report: Phone companies want Web providers to pay. Large phone companies are seeking payments from Internet companies for high-quality delivery of music, movies and other content that will move over their telecommunications networks, according to a published report.

This is a power grab, nothing less, by companies that much preferred the days when they were monopolies and are going to pull ever lever to bring back their “glory” days when customers had few if any choices.

Understand what is happening here: The phone companies, soon to be joined by the cable companies, are claiming the right to decide what data gets delivered in what order and at what speed on the pipes they control. This flies directly in the face of what is known as “network neutrality” — and it is a clear and present danger not just to your wallet but to freedom of speech itself.

The phone and cable companies will soon be just about the only alternatives for faster-than-dialup Internet access in most places. That is a duopoly, control by two companies over what we read, listen to and watch online. Oh, sure, wireless will be available in some places. But note that the phone and cable industries are bribing state legislatures nationwide — and have a bill in Congress — to ban municipally delivered wireless. These people will stop at nothing.

They will injure if not kill citizen media if they get away with this. Why? Because part of the future for citizen media is video and audio, not just text. If these robber barons can decide that their partners (e.g. the movie studios) get priority, the media that regular folks create will be at best a second-class network citizen.

We are in trouble if this blatant power grab succeeds. Some — but not all — technology companies are fighting back, but they are woefully incompetent at lobbying for the most part, up against industries that practically own Congress and state legislatures.

This is not a partisan issue. It’s about everyone’s freedom of speech in the end.

1 Comment on “Phone and Cable Companies: Dangerous to Citizen Media”

  1. #1 rparrish57
    on Jan 6th, 2006 at 11:54 am

    There are legitimate costs associated with delivering data and the companies operating the data networks need to be fairly compensated. If they are not, they will not make the necessary investments and we will be stuck with the puny bandwidth that we have today.

    Your reaction to this latest proposal by the carriers is similar to the positions that the ISPs had in the mid-90’s. At that time, the ISPs got price caps put on the DSL services that they were authorized to resell and the unintended consequence was that the telecoms were slow to develop high capacity DSL services. As such, we are still living in the 500 KBPs world, when companies in countries like Korea routinely deliver 15+ MBPs services.

    That said, there are legitimage concerns about telecoms restricting access and some of your points are well taken. But a more dispassionate approach would be better – one where both sides of the equation are given the proper consideration.