Internet Future = “Infranet”?

Here's an article from Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy, titled "From Open Network to a New, Business-friendly "Infranet"?:

"What is the vision of many of the nation’s largest phone, cable and networking technology companies for the Internet’s future? It’s called the 'Infranet.' Nearly 50 companies are working closely together on an initiative to help transform today’s Internet into a redesigned, highly controlled network optimized to deliver profits to phone and cable broadband operators. The group—called the IPsphere Fourm—was founded by a technology executive who says today’s Internet is a 'failed business experiment.' Among the forum members are America Online, Alcatel, Cisco, Juniper Networks, Hewlett Packard, Time Warner Telecom, Verizon. SBC is also listed as a member (although its new name is AT&T).

The group’s goals make clear why big phone and cable companies don’t want any network neutrality safeguards. They are working to 'fix' what they see as problems with today’s Internet. As one trade article put it, these companies dislike the Internet because it 'makes it hard to charge more for new uses of the Internet.' They want to see an Internet where our newly minted broadband telco/cable monopolists can reap “a proportional increase in the revenues.' The group seeks to ensure that cable and phone companies can charge 'premium' prices for speedier Internet delivery of content, making today’s 'best-effort' transport the equivalent of relying on third-class mail. Phone and cable companies are terrified, of course, of allowing today’s Internet to seriously threaten their monopoly-based voice and video businesses. As Business Communications Review (BCR) noted, 'If they keep their networks dumb, encouraging others to freely exploit their infrastructure, they… lose money.'

IPsphere is working to 'establish a business layer for IP networks that would supplement the current IP standards with the exchange of necessary business policy data,' notes BCR. 'Underneath this new business layer, providers would be free to exercise whatever IP business model they choose….' You can be certain it won’t be today’s open, nondiscriminatory and more democratically oriented approach.

The group describes its 'new type of public network' Infranet in glowing terms, saying it will be more 'predictable,' 'secure' and will also 'perform.' But don’t be fooled. It will be a highway beset by the digital equivalent of tollbooths, parking meters, and an array of monetization schemes. We can’t afford to have the Internet’s future placed in the hands of a few who want to place very narrow commercial interests ahead of all Americans. Read for yourself the Infranet plan. Then get angry and demand Congress pass legislation protecting the Internet as a public trust."

Read the article on the Center for Digital Democracy's website here.

Then check out the list of resources on "Media Reform and Telecommunications Policy Resources" at their website.

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