portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

alternative media

Closing access to information technology

This is a story from Sonoma State University's "Project Censored"- a list of the top ten censored stories for the year:
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.)
Countermeasures 07.Nov.2003 12:16

Luke from DC

When censorship of DSL and cable internet becomes common, people will simply go back to dial-up. Under that format censorship wouold require monitoring EVERY phone line or using narrower lowpass filters to interfere with data transmission. The latter would make voice on a phone too hard to understand, and the former would have to be done by computer and could be defeated simply by choosing a new pair of tones as a standard.

Even if tighter lowpass filters were installed, slow data rates(certainly 300 baud with ease) can be passed through the voice frequency spectrum. This is how Radioteletype(RTTY) used to be done on Amateur Radio. "Packet Radio" on VHF was simiolar with wider bandwidth and higher speeds. It woudl be a simple matter to write stripped-down, text based browsers without graphichs that would require little data, interface seamlessly with theWeb, and be totally unstoppable through any phone line capable of transmitting voice-or even a telegraph wire in slower cases!

In RTTY and the old slow-speed cassette storage systems ca 1978 computers used, data is transmitted throught Frequecy-Shift keying(FSK) or Audio Frequency Shift keying(AFSK). The latter passes right through any phone line, requiring just enough bandwidth to accomodate two tones(say 300 and 450 hz), and the sidebands generated by shifting them, which vary with thekeying speed. In fact, normal "dial-up access" to the net is still an AFSK system transmitted through phone lines, with teh speed automaticly varying to use whatever bandwidth is available-and might work right through any kind of lowpass filter.

Since phone lines are multiplexed, a normal voice phone line is laready frequency restricted to the voice bandwith anyway. A DSL line is simply allowed extra bandwith in teh multiplex and requires in some cases better quality components(thus the limited areas served). I doubt that phone companies could do much to dial-up besides either slowing them down a little or trying to disconnect phones of 'outlaw" servers, which woudl work about as well as cancelling spammer's Internet accounts.

Even if someone used an EMP device to kill the whole hardware infrastructure and just phone lines were rebuilt, phone lines and answering machines could do everything we now do with the Internet. Need to get the word out for a protest? An autodialer calls everyone on your list, answering machines provide 'store and forward" for those not home, and you get the real-time capabilities of teh phone combined with the store and forward abilities of a mailbox. This combination is the only real advantage of Email anyway.

links? 07.Nov.2003 13:44


Luke from DC,

Can you provide links on this Hz frequency shifting over phones?

Don't have links, but 07.Nov.2003 15:07

Harry Flashman

If there's a good source for used magazines in your area, just dig through issues of the old Popular Electronics or Radio Electronics from the mid-80s or so. Back in the day when personal computers used audio cassettes for dta and prgram storage, this sort of thing was commonly discussed in hobbyist publications.

Some terms that might turn up useful information in a search engine: Bell 102, Kansas City Standard, FSK, RTTY (as Luke mentioned, frequency-shift keying was used for quite some time in radioteletype transmission before the same techniques were adapted for the early generations of modems)

FSK was used at speeds up to 2400 baud, so gathering data on some of those old-school 1200 and 2400 baud external modems will also probably answer your questions. Try doing searches relating to personal computer history, antique computers, computer museums etc.

Just some suggestions. Happy researching!