Salon is doing an extensive series of articles about the consolidation of power and ownership in the media world. This week’s article is particularly interesting. It describes how the Federal Communications Commission is quietly handing over control of broadband in America to a handful of massive corporations. There’s every reason to expect that these giant telecommunications, cable, and media companies will establish a monopoly in each market. After that, “(o)ne worry is that the lack of competition will yield high prices and poor service. But the far more urgent concern is that media conglomerates will use their control over broadband pipes to restrict access to content, information, or technologies that compete with their own content or otherwise threaten their interests.”
The prospect of broadband provision reduced to a few competitors, each with a monopoly on their own platform, scares the hell out of consumer groups that have fought the creation of corporate monopolies over media and information sources for years. Because media conglomerates such as AOL have begun buying up the pipes that deliver the content they produce, the situation seems even more ominous. In short, consumer advocates worry these companies will mess with content in order to force the Internet to serve their own interests. They argue, for example, that a cable company will never allow streaming video to flow over its cable broadband lines if it competes with its cable television service. Even the right to “click through” to the Web won’t be guaranteed, they warn, and companies are likely to turn the Internet into walled gardens of their own content — think AOL with no escape hatch to Google.
Very interesting, very scary stuff.