Battle for the network will mark 2008

Power isn't given up lightly, and a monopoly gives its owner immense power. No matter how nice and warm the present owners of monopoly power may be, you can be sure as night follows day they will be succeeded by folks who are not so nice.

Bette Davis in All about Eve trailer, from Wikimedia commons
Here is my second prediction for 2008.

We're going to see a more intense battle for control of the Internet, and at least during this year open source advocates will lose.

Having won a shared monopoly over the last several years, cable giants like Comcast and phone giants AT&T and Verizon have been taking the first moves to destroy network neutrality in 2007.

The guess here is that this will accelerate.

One reason is that gear for deep packet inspection is becoming ubiquitous in corporate networks. In 2008 it will give network owners the power to control what goes through the core.

A second reason is that these giant companies want to grow margins with "value added" -- network control is the service they've been talking about for a decade.

A third reason is that the government, in its infinite ignorance, is pressing for more Internet controls to stop crime.

The practical result is that ordinary consumers may soon find it impossible to do things they now take for granted, like use BitTorrent. Sophisticated users, and the criminals who are the target of government's ire, will write and use the needed code, continuing on as before.

A second battle will be joined in the wireless space. Google will not win a national footprint at auction. Straw bidders and other phone company allies will win the day, because AT&T has more to lose from an open network than Google has to gain from one.

All this could combine to make the Internet a real election issue for the first time. Given the kind of rhetoric and reaction we've seen on other issues in this decade, it won't be pretty.

Power isn't given up lightly, and a monopoly gives its owner immense power. No matter how nice and warm the present owners of monopoly power may be, you can be sure as night follows day they will be succeeded by folks who are not so nice.

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

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