Jun 14, 2008

Toll lanes on the information superhighway

We are living in a special time. A time as magical and carefree as it is fleeting. It is our version of free love. Rivers of free information are flowing through the intertubes and, for a small fee, we have unfettered access to most of it. A virtual orgy of free information. Generations to come will look back on this time with green-eyed jealousy, wishing the world would offer them a chance at the innocent experimentation and instant gratification we had, bitter at us for not realizing just how good we had it.

Because it's going end. Free is, as newspaper companies will vouch, not a workable business model. Free is never really free in the long run. And Internet providers are already plotting ways to cash in on our new found habits.

The latest idea is placing meters on the information flow. The more we use the Internet, the more we'll pay for it. It probably won't happen for a few years - they need more of us to get hooked on the goods before they raise the prices.

Unless, of course, we give up on net neutrality and let the big guys to squeeze out the little guys. That should free up some bandwidth. But even that might only forestall the inevitable.

So, gather ye gigabytes while ye may. Download what you can. Check out every corner of the Internet before they put the fences up and start charging entry fees. Make sure you enjoy this time because it soon shall pass.

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