The innovation of new forms of media always begins promising. Newspapers promised political participation, TV enlightenment by education, and the internet a wholly new realm of freedom beyond the physical existence of mankind. But yet, all these promises have failed the hopes put into them. So far, control always has prevailed over freedom: An obituary on our latest hope.
There can be no doubt: The dream of the internet as a realm of freedom for mankind is dead. It will be up to historians to determine the exact time and place, when and where the idea of internet as an extension of free man ceased to exist. But we can be certain. It is most legitimate to ask, how we can come to this conclusion.
On the 22nd of March, the IT-Portal chip.de reported on plans of Germany’s biggest online provider Deutsche Telekom, to reduce data traffic speed from a certain volume on. One month later, the 22nd of April, speculation became reality. Telekom announced, from the 2nd of May on, only to conclude contracts with fixed limits in data volume. The flat rate, unlimited flow of data for every user, will slowly fade away.
This new policy by Germany’s largest provider will soon see some followers in the market. And most people might think, well I do not use more than 75 gigabyte of traffic per month (depending on the price) anyway. So why bother? What we now see is the peak of a development that has already sealed the pipe dreams of the internet as a better, freer and more equal place. And it did not began with Telekom announcing to cut down speed when a certain data volume is reached. What we are facing is a battle over the control of media, not about their content, but their hardware.
An example: When I was young, copying computer games was a fashion, as sharing movies online is today. Since there was no high speed internet back in the 90s, the CD-writer did the job of sharing, before the internet community “invented” file sharing. At first, producers tried to protect their products by introducing measures of copy protections on CDs. When that not worked, the industry came up with a completely new idea. In 2002 the Valve Corporation, among others, started to develop a platform called Steam, where content users had to register before being able to play a game. Today, most games you buy are tied to a membership on a platform like steam. And no matter how hard you try, the software does not work until you connect with the platform to finish installation process.