Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Whole Internet . . . or at least what your ISP likes

What if you discovered that BellSouth was blocking its customers from reaching the websites of its biggest competitor, Time Warner Cable? Or that Time Warner was selectively slowing or restricting access to particular blogs that were critical of its operations?

Well, it hasn't happened yet . . . but if it strikes you as blatently unfair and illegal, better pay attention.

I've recently been reading in the New Yorker and elsewhere about how Internet providers are trying to do away with "common carriage" regulations that require them to give everyone equivalent service. This would allow the phone and cable companies to charge for "tiered access" -- that is, someone who pays a premium could get faster performance for their website than others who don't pay premium. The providers argue that this will create a more competitive marketplace in which providers can charge what the market will bear for their services. Opponents see this as the beginning of monopolistic power of providers over Internet content, in which they get to choose which websites get seen and have complete power to snuff out whatever they see fit.

It's a tribute to how well the internet has been managed that almost everyone has a "common carriage" notion about how it should work . . . even those of us who never heard the term before and never gave it any thought. The mere idea that some cable ape or telephone bureacrat can decide what websites are available to you is so unthinkable . . . it ranks right up there with the notion of charging a tax on emails. A complete non-starter, politically. But only if people really are aware of what it means and what's at stake.


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