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Thursday, June 01, 2006

"The Internet isn't free"

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether the Internet should be free. It seems that the telecommunications companies want you to pay to access content and other people. The great thing about the internet is that it has always been free in the sense that when I pay for access to the Internet, I can communicate with my friend who uses a different service. There is no need for my friend to have a special arrangement with my service provider.

Wikipedia, the Internet's Free Encyclopedia, defines Internet as "the worldwide, publicly accessible system of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It consists of millions of smaller business, academic, domestic, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, and the interlinked Web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web."

But can a system be implemented to charge users for access to specific content be implemented without killing what the internet is about? I don't think so. The Internet has survived and thrived because of its universal freedom from any restrictions, even legal ones. There has been a lot of questions about legal issues pertaining to the Internet such as taxes, privacy rights, and more.

The International Herald Tribune conducted a digital dialogue on these issues with Tim Berners-Lee, the man who helped establish the programming language of the Web in 1989 with colleagues at CERN, the European science institute. An abbreviated dialogue can be found here and the full transcript of the dialogue can be found here.

As internet users, what do you think about this? How would instituting a fee-based system affect how you use the Internet? Do you think that a free Internet could co-exist with a fee-based one?

I for one am fearful of the changes some companies and politicians are proposing to the internet but only time will tell what happens.


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