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Saving the peoples' right to know: Fight Internet strangulation

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  • Saving the peoples' right to know: Fight Internet strangulation

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    Saving the peoples' right to know: Fight Internet strangulation

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: June 16, 2006 by: _Editors Report_
    ( / Indian Country Today

    Talk about a coming digital divide. No, make that a digital stomp. When
    half of Indian country is still having a hard time getting on the Internet,
    American megacorporations are once again trying to figure how to privatize the
    keys to the greatest techno-tool of knowledge liberation ever invented by
    humankind. For most Native families and organizations, this might not just to be
    left behind in the information super-highway, as Mohawk artist Richard Hill
    once coined: ''If we don't watch it, Indians may just be the roadkill in the
    information highway.''

    A threat is now posed by the ''privatize everything'' crowd to divvy up
    parts of the Internet and begin charging for faster grades of service and breadth
    of access. The freedom-to-access tool we have come to appreciate for the
    rapid communications and byway to knowledge it gives us could be changed

    Admittedly, many Indian people have been loath to join the computer
    revolution, preferring to stay out of the all-encompassing virtual world. This is
    understandable and even supportable, particularly when the isolation or
    ''downfending'' strengthens cultural practices that are nearly always private and
    nature-connected. There is great spiritual value in silence and in sustaining a
    separate pace of existence - private from the world so intensely
    commandeered by the white brother.

    But for those who chose the path of engaging society with the many tools and
    tribulations of the modern world, computers - and particularly the powers
    and freedoms of the Internet - are a gift. For one thing, its availability and
    circularity greatly help to level the playing field for the small peoples and
    communities struggling to survive and prosper. A free and unencumbered
    Internet is the major technological tool of access for small and relatively small
    American Indian communities, geographically remote and mostly lacking in
    adequate resources for a proper self-governance.

    Internet networking, with its rapid, real-time messaging, its ability to
    multi-communicate, its reach into the hearth in a technology that allows
    families and all manner of clan and tribal networks to be in touch and even to
    sustain common narrative can put Native peoples (and all manner of publics) on a
    par with government agencies and even major corporations.

    With the world increasingly wired, a consortium of companies has supported
    the further privatization of services. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Bell South
    are among the cable and telephone communications giants lobbying to be allowed
    to charge fees for most services online. The Internet is thus destined to
    become a medium for corporate marketing. It would cease to be effective as a
    means for quick global civic-related networks.

    The political strategy of the phone and cable lobbyists is to change
    communications policy laws. The communications giants want greater control over
    broadband. They want to eliminate the concept of ''common carrier,'' which
    implies a covenant with the public that requires a non-discriminatory approach. But
    the fact of government regulation of phone lines is what guarantees the
    Internet as a democratic medium that truly helps to level the playing field. By
    privatizing the use of cable and phone lines these companies could operate
    Internet services as mega private networks, giving preferential treatment to
    their own ''applications'' and near monopoly influence over the communications
    services that provide all video, audio and data that comes into our
    computers, televisions, phones and iPods. These companies are considering how to meter
    individual subscriber usage by application, tracking individuals' online
    travels are tracked and billed.

    All our cyberspace information, of private or public nature, will thus be
    tracked for comprehensive analysis useful in developing directed marketing
    strategies. Such controls will further facilitate tracking of the citizenry
    already in progress via the National Security Agency. Among the ideas of industry
    planners are new subscription plans that would define different levels of
    service relative to amount of email that can be received and sent, numbers of
    downloads, media streaming and other activities we presently enjoy in a free
    and unencumbered fashion on the World Wide Web.

    We hope it does not happen; and for it not to happen, Internet users who
    value the freedoms of the Internet must call and write their U.S. senators this
    week. Let them know the wrath of the violated if they would dare to vote for
    the attempt by Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants
    to acquire big chunks of the now free and nondiscriminatory global service.
    This would mean users would have to pay fees for virtually all services now
    offered freely for use, something like ''virtual tollboths,'' in the words of
    analyst Jeff Chester, writing in The Nation.

    The debate is heating up on Capitol Hill. The key issue to support is
    ''Internet neutrality.'' This is the one where the public interest forces - the
    people and companies that fully support the present Internet model of open
    access by all - are converging. As usual, Sen. Daniel Inouye is the champion of
    the people on this issue.

    Along with Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Inouye
    continues to argue over the latest draft of a sweeping communications bill,
    called the ''Consumer's Choice and Broadband Deployment Act,'' to guarantee
    Internet neutrality - ''to ensure that consumers and content companies have the
    ability to use the Internet without interference or gate-keeping by the
    network operators,'' Inouye said.

    We urge our readers to support Inouye's effort for a free and unencumbered
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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