6. Closing access to information technology
All the stories that make up this year's Project Censored winners were gleaned from alternative and international media sources. Likewise, progressives quickly learned to seek out sources like CommonDreams.org, truthout.org and the U.K. Independent's Web site for the real news on the latest war on Iraq.
The Internet has functioned as the single most important medium for accessing these kinds of information. But if the big communications companies get their way, the Web could be compromised as a democratic source of alternative news and perspectives. Soon what we get from the Web could be a carbon copy of what we already get from corporate TV, cable, radio and newspapers.
For several years now, businesses that provide access to the Web -- cable, telephone and (more recently) satellite companies -- have been working to cash in on their control over distribution. Unlike the companies controlling telephone lines -- which by law must grant access to any company that wants to use them -- the Federal Communications Commission opted in spring 2002 to grant cable companies full control over who could use their cable networks and under what terms.
Cable companies can now manage the speed at which different sites pop up, block out any content they choose and even deny sites and ISPs access to their lines altogether. Of course, telephone companies have since been lobbying for the same exclusive rights over DSL.
The telephone and cable lines are controlled by monopolies in most U.S. cities and towns. Without any open-access laws to preserve competition, those monopolies are sure to hike up their rates, making it more difficult for small businesses and nonprofits to stay online.
By Chad Crowe
The thousands of ISPs currently available could dwindle to just two or three for any given region, as broadband distributors favor their own companies' ISPs over others. Customers might be forced to pay more for a wider variety of sites, and companies could block whatever sites they chose to.
Of course, the largest media conglomerates have already been merging with the companies that provide Internet access to the vast majority of U.S. households and stand to gain handsomely from such a deal. So is it any wonder they've blacked out the story?
(Arthur Stamoulis, Dollars and Sense, September 2002.)