Monday, April 17, 2006

Will a few big companies destroy the Internet's promise?

If you want to better understand the gathering fight over "net neutrality," check out Farhad Manjoo's new piece in Salon, The corporate toll on the Internet. (It's worth reading even if you have to sit through an annoying online commercial for a "day pass.")

If you've read about the subject in my columns, you know where some key battle lines have been drawn: Ed Whitacre, chairman of a resurgent telecom company that has taken back the name (and, it hopes, the mantle) of AT&T, wants to set up new tollbooths on the broadband Internet "pipes" his company owns or plans to lay. Cable companies such as Comcast, having won the Supreme Court's assurance that they don't have to open their pipes to leasing by competitors, are trying to stave off video competition from the Baby Bells – the only other companies that own their own broadband network – but siding with the Bells against net neutrality as an onerous new form of "regulation." And Congress and the FCC seem inclined to let the market take its course – even if the result will be an unregulated duopoly for years to come.

Manjoo sorts through this whole mess, which will affect consumers and the economy for years to come.


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