Hong Kong at Night

HongKongNight: View from Victoria Peak.
The view from Victoria Peak can be spectacular, especially when the pollution level is lower than normal. This was one such evening.

Yahoo and the French Internet Censors

The Western world might consider shedding some of its pretenses of political superiority when it behaves just like the worst players on the international stage. Case in point: a French judge’s ruling that Yahoo should censor itself (Mercury News) when delivering content to France.

You can sympathize, to a point, with the French. The Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo’s site may well be offensive to lots of people.

I personally find it disgusting, though I also think it’s valuable to preserve a historical record. The difference between a neo-Nazi’s collection and historical society’s collection may be clear to me and you, but it’s not possible to be clear in a Web auction — and it’s none of Yahoo’s business why customers behave as they do.

In China, the powers-that-be don’t want their citizens to look at the New York Times on the Web or any number of other sites deemed politically untoward. The Chinese government is sharply limiting the number of Internet service providers and forcing them to block the supposedly offending sites.

France doesn’t have so many limits on ISPs, but it has decided Yahoo can determine the physical location of a Web surfer and then deny access to certain material just for people in certain places. This is technically impossible.

Yes, some companies are working on ways to make it more possible, but even if they succeed there will always be relay sites that pass along users’ requests. As John Gilmore has said so memorably, “The Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it.”

China’s Net-censorship policies remain a barrier to progress in the most populous place on Earth. It’s a shame to see France moving in the wrong direction.

Time Warner and EarthLink Make a Deal

San Jose Mercury News: Final hurdles for AOL-Time Warner. EarthLink access deal is a huge leap for merger plans.

I hope not.

One deal permitting a competitive Internet access provider to use Time Warner’s cable lines is not the same thing as open access. It’s a sop to the antitrust authorities who, I fear, may be looking for a reason to let American Online’s buyout of Time Warner go through.

Earthlink is an excellent ISP. So is AOL. That’s not the point.

The point is that these kinds of deals will create an oligopoly of ISPs, a cozy few “competitors” that ultimately will raise prices as they shut other ISPs out of the market. It’s not a coincidence that America’s Internet surge has coincided with the rampantly free market in Internet service, from mom-and-pop operations all the way up to AOL’s gargantuan and frequently anticompetitive system.

The cable companies should be required to do what the phone companies must do according to law: Offer access to anyone who wants it and can put in the right equipment to link up. This is not, contrary to the cable company’s protests, anything close to rocket science.

“Our partnership with EarthLink demonstrates our commitment to offer Time Warner Cable customers multiple choices in broadband ISPs,” Glenn A. Britt, president of Time Warner Cable, told the Mercury News’ Heather Fleming Phillips.

Maybe the commitment is real. But one deal sure doesn’t prove it.

This entry was posted in SiliconValley.com Archives. Bookmark the permalink.