You may or may not know about the push by telecommunications companies to require payment for better service (faster transmission and such) on the Web. To put it simply, AT&T and its ilk want more money for “more” service. “More” means that they’ll give preferential treatment to those who give them more money, while those who don’t pay up will be demoted.
That open architecture is what has allowed for the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce and communication. Pierre Omidyar, a small-time programmer working out of his home office, was able to set up an online auction site that anyone in the world could reach — which became eBay. The blogging phenomenon is possible because individuals can create Web sites with the World Wide Web prefix, www, that can be seen by anyone with Internet access.
Last year, the chief executive of what is now AT&T sent shock waves through cyberspace when he asked why Web sites should be able to “use my pipes free.” Internet service providers would like to be able to charge Web sites for access to their customers. Web sites that could not pay the new fees would be accessible at a slower speed, or perhaps not be accessible at all.
A tiered Internet poses a threat at many levels. Service providers could, for example, shut out Web sites whose politics they dislike. Even if they did not discriminate on the basis of content, access fees would automatically marginalize smaller, poorer Web sites.
Cruise on over to Save the Internet, to sign the petition and send an e-mail to your representatives. Here’s mine:
As a researcher and political scientist,I rely upon the resources of the Internet and the World Wide Web to complete my work on the international politics of HIV. Should the Internet become less democratic, reliant upon payment for preferential information provision, my work and that of every researcher dedicated to improving the public good will be severely impacted. The Web works like science does–all information is assessed only on the basis of its quality and reliability, not on its ability to pay.
Along with Google, Microsoft, the Christian Coalition, and Moveon.org, I urge you to vote for the Sensenbrenner-Conyers internet neutrality bill.
The bill, BTW, is HR 5417.