The Internet is currently being transformed
from a world of dial-up access over traditional copper phone lines, often
amusingly referred to as the "World Wide Wait", to a world of broadband
high-speed access that offers the potential to deliver a wide array of
new voice, video, and data applications. The promise of these new
technologies, however, also presents our society with a vast array of new
challenges and problems.
In particular, as we enter into this new world
of high-speed Internet access we most confront a number of difficult questions.
At the core of these questions are whether we, as a society, will allow
the proprietary owners of the high-speed cable networks, such as AT&T
& AOL-Time Warner, to serve as Internet gatekeepers in the next millennium?
If a single corporation controls access to the Internet of the future,
do we risk converting the Internet into a corporate Intranet? Will control
over the Internet backbone allow corporations to control the content we
view on our desktops?
Open Access is a debate about who will control
the future of the Internet. At an economic level the stakes include
potentially higher prices, reduced consumer choice, and stifled innovation.
Perhaps more troubling, however, is the potential threat that Internet
gatekeepers pose to our core values of freedom of speech, freedom from
censorship, and equal protection. Regardless of your point of view
in relation to the overall outcome, therefore, the stakes in the battle
for Open Access could not be higher. Consequently, we hope that these
pages will inspire you to become an active participant in a debate that
implicates the very character of the Internet, and has the potential to
dramatically alter the broader landscape of our political and social discourses.
To assist you in preparing for this week's class,
we have put together a selection of required
readings. These are designed to introduce you to the issues which
Open Access raises and provide you with solid understanding of the most
recent developments in this area. For those of you who want to find
out more about these issues, we have also compiled a page of further
resources from which you can link to large number of reports, articles,
opinions and sites relating to Open Access.
We have a number of distinguished speakers forming
a panel for us on Wednesday night. To find out more about our guest
speakers we have created a Speakers
page which contains a short bio of each participant. The panel discussion
is to be webcast to an international audience. For more information
about the webcast and how to participate in it, please visit our webcast