Informed sources party to talks taking place in Washington have confirmed in the last hour that big players Google and Verizon are about to announce an agreement to effectively end free information flow on the Internet.
It seems that the pair are close to an agreement whereby ‘premium’ services will be available to those who pay and/or pay more; basically, it would allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators were willing to pay for the privilege.
The ramifications of this are mind-boggling: it goes miles beyond a media-site paywall (where the customer has a choice to subscribe or not) and into new territory where the only way content providers could get something out quickly would be by paying fees. The most obvious effect of this would be to favour The Big against The Small in virtually every sector of the media. The richer global commerce, marketing and banking businesses would effectively get information more rapidly by choosing to sign up to the bigger, richer information sources.
Somewhere in Australia/China/New York, an old Digger is probably smiling warmly to himself tonight. But the impetus for this deal appears (unsurprisingly) to have come from the phoneco/cable conglomerates who argue that after investing billions in their networks, they need to be able earn a return on their massive investments by offering premium services.
The main people to suffer as a result of this will be those dependent on mobile information via the myriad telephone and Blackberry combinations. But the speed with which most news consumers are now becoming reliant upon that as a source of updates means that this will be very much the future of information retrieval….especially among corporate executives.
American media guru Josh Silver, founder and president of the group Free Press, warned that an agreement would amount to “a bold grab for market power by two monopolistic players” and would “effectively create two Internets where application and content innovators have to ask Verizon and Google for permission to reach mobile Internet customers.”
The Slog has argued for many months that the future of a democratic Internet depends on opponents of Big Globalism staking a claim to objective news delivery online. This latest development shifts the balance of power in favour of all those rich info suppliers with agendas and proprietors.
To be frank, it probably also sounds the death-knell for all bloggers who have not already made it into the mainstream.
But overall, were this agreement to reach fruition, it would be a crushing blow to all those who want the Internet to stand for new ideas, fresh thinking, and uncensored news.