Saturday, May 06, 2006

Alert! Struggle over Internet Access Charges: Who will have access?

In the May 5, 2006 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, at pages A39 - A41, a lengthy article titled "The Fight for a Toll Free Internet" discusses current bills in both houses of Congress. The article lays out the stakes for everyday people as well as high-tech academics by looking first at the state of Alaska. In Alaska, distances and isolation make the Internet a lifeline for everyday people to stay in touch as well as for school children, nursing students, people needing medical advice in rural areas, teachers needing advice from their distant professors, as well as folks at the University of Alaska.

The University of Alaska installed its own broadband provider because General Communications, Inc., which provides broadband in most of the lower 48 states was too expensive. And when the University of Alaska service needs to interface with a General Communications client, the result is often lost service, rejected video feeds, jumbled communications. When Alaska called General Communications to try to straighten out the problem, they were told the way to fix it was to purchase the General Communications broadband. Period.

Apparently large corporations are planning to hold higher education hostage to their ability to provide access to the Internet, to charge whatever the market can bear. Or else.

That is what is at stake in HR .5252, the "Communications Opportunity,Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006" link which just passed the House. It gives large telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon the right to enter the cable business on a national scale, meaning that they will be Internet service providers. It also defeated an amendment to have some meaningful "Net Neutrality" language, to balance the access to the Internet. I am pleased to report the Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey (also a Suffolk alumnus) is introducing another amendment to rectify this as the "Network Neutrality Act of 2006" link.

Follow more about this at Public Knowledge, mentioned in the Chronicle article link

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