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The Death of the Free Internet

July 23, 2008

Via Idleworm, The Death of the Free Internet. I remember reading how, with the advent of printing presses, the elite in places like Britian were so incensed that ‘radical leftists’ and the like were printing their own papers (and the common people were being exposed to dangerous political messages) that they passed laws making it harder for non-elite publishers. I’m sorry I can’t recall exactly what these measures were but the main point was that they didn’t work because they were so blatant and heavy handed. In the end the thing that killed the radical papers was the use of advertising.

Naturally there were few advertisers who agreed with the politics of left wing papers and so the establishment papers were able to sell for a substantially lower cost thanks to subsidies from advertisers and eventually came to dominate the market – and so we have the sorry excuse for the media that we all know about today.

It appears from this article that history is about to repeat itself where the internet is concerned. China has tried restricting access to the internet and received a lot of flak for it but now in Canada the subtle approach is about to be tried.

What will the Internet look like in Canada in 2010? I suspect that the ISP’s 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, which will make the networks happy since they have lost much of the younger market which are surfing and chatting on their computers in the evening. 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.

And this is where the Internet (free) as we know it will suffer almost immediate, economic strangulation. Thousands and thousands of Internet sites will not be part of the package so users will have to pay extra to visit those sites! In just an hour or two it is possible to easily visit 20-30 sites or more while looking for information. Just imagine how high these costs will be.

My only hope is that with the whole decline of civilisation thing, people will be starting to wake up to the nature of the powers-that-be by then and will be more inclined to oppose this move. Although that seems kind of naieve now that I’ve actually written it (but I’ll leave it in anyway). I’ve heard that mainstream people visit mostly commercial sites on the web anyway and was trying to think what they may view that was a bit more off-piste and the only thing I could come up with was blogs. So my other hope is that so many people like blogs that there will be a mass of people upset that they can’t read their favorite blogs or that they have no readers any more and that they will make a difference.

Alternatively it may make not matter anyway. As Kevin has posited, sites like his are great for tracking how much of the population are thought criminals and since his readership only comes from the fringes of society in the first place it may actually be the case that the internet has made no difference to the political landscape anyway. Then on the other hand (my 4th) and to paraphrase Ran’s comments from earlier today, it may be simply that the elite are so mean they’ll just want to crush the free spirited nature of the internet regardless of any strategic considerations.

The only other thing I should mention is that we’ll probably still have email – and email lists, which will still allow for considerable interaction between groups of dangerously like minded people. I wonder how they’ll try to clamp down on those?

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