Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Empire tightens its grip, Part 2

Pay-to-play on the Internet is coming.
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.

Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from content providers to individual users--would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.
This change in policy will also have a profound effect on open and free software. Right now you can go anywhere in the world and download full operating systems on ISOs for Linux and BSD, as well as free applications such as Firefox. The only distributions that will survive will be those that have big backing (SuSE and Redhat, for example), that charge for the download, or some combination thereof. Oh. And I'll bet Microsoft is behind this initiative as well. Not only would it put a crimp on open and free software but it would help their on-line properties to generate even more revenue.

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