In the last 15 years or so, as a society we have had access to more information than ever before in modern history because of the Internet. There are approximately one billion Internet users in the world and any one of these users can theoretically communicate in real-time with any other on the planet. The Internet has been the greatest technological achievement of the 20th century by far, and has been recognized as such by the global community.
The free transfer of information—uncen-sored, unlimited and untainted—still seems to be a dream if you think about it. However, when there are potential profits open to a corporation, the needs of society don’t count.
Take the recent case in Canada with the behemoths Telus and Rogers rolling out a charge for text messaging without any warning to the public. It was an arrogant and risky move for the telecommunications giants because it backfired. People actually used Internet technology to deliver a loud and clear message to these companies and that was to scrap the extra charge. The people used the power of the Internet against the big boys—and the little guys won.
However, the issue of text messaging was just a tiny blip on the radar screens of Telus and another company, Bell Canada, the two largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Canada. Our country [Canada] is being used as a test case to drastically change the delivery of Internet service forever. The change will be so radical that it has the potential to send us back to the horse and buggy days of information access. In the upcoming weeks watch for a report in Time Magazine that will attempt to smooth over the rough edges of a diabolical plot by Bell Canada and Telus, to begin charging per-site fees on most Internet sites. The plan is to convert the Internet into a cable-like system, where customers sign up for specific web sites and then pay to visit sites beyond a cut-off point.
The ‘demise’ of the free Internet is slated for 2010 in Canada, and two years later around the world. Canada is seen as a good choice to implement such shameful and sinister changes, since Canadians are viewed as being laissez-faire, politically uninformed and an easy target. The corporate marauders will iron out the wrinkles in Canada and then spring the new, castrated version of the Internet on the rest of the world—probably with little fanfare—except for some dire warnings about the ‘evil’ of the (free) Internet and other rants about ‘safety and security.’
What will the Internet look like in Canada in 2010? I suspect that the ISPs will provide a “package” program as companies like Cogeco currently do. Customers will pay for a series of websites as they do now for their television stations. Television stations will be available on-line as part of these packages. However, as is the case with cable television now, if you choose something that is not part of the package, you know what happens: you pay extra.
At present, the world condemns China because that country restricts certain websites. “They are undemocratic; they are removing people’s freedom; they don’t respect individual rights; they are censoring information,” are some of the comments we hear. But what Bell Canada and Telus have planned for Canadians is much worse than that. They are planning the death of the (free) Internet as we know it, and I expect there will be hardly a whimper from Canadians.