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Congress poised to corporatize the WWW

Reported by Chrish - May 11, 2006

Professor Michael Socolow writes in the Baltimore Sun that the US Congress appears ready and able to enact legislation, "COPE" - the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act - that would completely alter the World Wide Web, favoring (of course) the big corporate owned or sanctioned websites. Not surprisingly, the (corporate) major media has not covered this story much so there has been no public outcry.

According to Socolow,

"Currently, your Internet provider does not voluntarily censor the Web as it enters your home. This levels the playing field between the tiniest blog and the most popular Web site.

Yet the big telecom companies want to alter this dynamic. AT&T and Verizon have publicly discussed their plans to divide the information superhighway into separate fast and slow lanes. Web sites and services willing to pay a toll will be channeled through the fast lane, while all others will be bottled up in the slower lanes. COPE, and similar telecom legislation offered in the Senate, does nothing to protect the consumer from this transformation of the Internet.

The telecoms are frustrated that commercial Web sites reap unlimited profits while those providing entry to your home for these companies are prevented from fully cashing in. If the new telecom regulations pass without safeguarding net neutrality, the big telecom companies will be able to prioritize the Web for you. They will be free to decide which Web sites get to your computer faster and which ones may take longer - or may not even show up at all.

By giving the telecoms the ability to harness your Web surfing, the government will empower them to shake down the most profitable Web companies. These companies will sell access to you, to Amazon.com, Travelocity.com and even BaltimoreSun.com, etc. What if these companies elect not to pay? Then, when you type in "amazon.com," you might be redirected to barnesandnoble.com, or your lightning-quick DSL Internet service might suddenly move at horse-and-buggy speed."

It might appear that the direct ramifications of this bill are somewhat obscure. Why should you care, if your Internet fee isn't altered? Or if your Web surfing will (possibly) be only minimally disrupted? (The telecoms understand that completely barring access to certain sites - especially the most popular ones - would be counterproductive.)

You should care because any corporate restriction on information gathering directly counters the original purpose of the World Wide Web.

Note that Verizon and AT&T are two of the three corporations named in today's USA Today story exposing the Bush administration's widespread data-gathering on US citizens.

More from the article:

"The proposed new rules have received surprisingly sparse media coverage. The new laws have economic, political and social ramifications. There are several explanations for the silence.

The most probable is simply that because the laws have strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, they do not appear particularly newsworthy. COPE has been promoted vigorously in the House by both Texas Republican Joe L. Barton and Illinois Democrat Bobby L. Rush. While a few legislators are attempting to preserve net neutrality - most notably Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine - they are clearly outnumbered."

Comment: This is a truly non-partisan issue. Nobody of any ideology benefits and everyone loses - except the big corporations. We need to bombard our elected leaders and let them know that we want the Internet to remain free and unfettered.

Contact your US Representative and your US Senators today and tell them to leave the web alone!

Please use the "e-mail this page" option below to help spread the word.

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