August 4, 2008
By MICHAEL CONNOR & FARNUM BROWN
The Seattle Times
Most of the 100 million Americans with high-speed Internet access likely assume that in return for paying a hefty monthly fee they can use their Internet service privately, for whatever purpose, as long as it is legal. They are wrong.
A bipartisan majority of the Federal Communications Commission recently ordered Comcast to stop blocking Internet access for some of its subscribers and "secretly degrading" their service.
At the heart of the Comcast case are actions euphemistically referred to as "network management." This innocuous term covers a host of troubling practices employed by Internet service Providers (ISPs), including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Charter Communications, Cablevision and others.
"Network management" sounds like a good idea. What sounds less appealing is having ISPs secretly block or degrade the Internet service you have paid for, or open and "inspect" the contents of your virtual communications without asking your permission. These, too, it turns out, are "network management" practices.
For more information on Tides Center project Open MIC, see www.openmic.org.