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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Topics: Entertainment News
Looking for evidence that Internet access is fast becoming the biggest hot-button issue in the ever-combative telecommunications industry? Turn on your TV. A slick new ad campaign running in San Francisco and parts of South Florida
– and likely to spread elsewhere — is all the proof you need. When the
sound bites start coming at you during prime time, you know that big money
and big special interests are clashing.
Sponsored by a self-described “coalition of Net users” called “Hands Off
the Internet,” the ads feature happy consumers sitting in front of their
computers while an ominous voice-over warns that corporations such as GTE
are “asking the government to slow competition down.” The ads themselves
don’t offer many clues about the actual issues, but a look at the Hands Off The
Internet Web site puts the group’s agenda into clearer focus.
The coalition of Net users turns out to be an oddball assortment of cable
companies, Net advertising concerns and a string of special interest
groups, such as the Small
Business Survival Committee and href="http://www.netaction.org/">Net.Action, an advocacy group most
known for its opposition to Microsoft. Uniting all the groups is the belief
that the Internet will flourish best if the government leaves it alone.
“The Internet’s phenomenal growth stems from the ability of entrepreneurs
to expand consumer choices and opportunities without worrying about
government regulation,” reads the Web site. “Tell the government to get its
hands off the Internet!”
The government regulation that Hands Off The Internet fears most would
force cable franchise operators to let competing Internet service providers
use their cable broadband networks. AT&T, which one critic says is
providing the bulk of the funding for the campaign, has already fallen
victim to this issue: AT&T owns the TCI cable company, and on June 4 was
ordered by a federal judge in Portland, Ore., to href="http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,37409,00.html?owv">open up
access to its broadband cable network to competing Internet service
The Portland decision was hailed as a victory by consumer activists who
believe the government has a duty to ensure that access to the cable
broadband network isn’t monopolized by any particular industry segment.
According to Jay Schwartzman, president of href="http://www.mediaaccess.org">Media Access — a public interest law
firm that focuses on how First
Amendment issues affect electronic media — the “slowing competition down”
angle is actually a smoke screen for cable companies who want to enjoy the
local monopolies that they have built up over the years. Schwartzman, a
participant in another pro-regulation coalition calling itself target="new" href="http://www.nogatekeepers.org/">No Gatekeepers, says
that vital free speech issues are involved with ensuring “open access” to
the cable broadband network.
Members of the Hands Off The Internet coalition, however, see groups like
No Gatekeepers as href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/1999/
07/04/BUSINESS12674.dtl">fronts for AOL, GTE and the regional Bell
telephone companies — companies that they say dragged their feet upgrading
their systems and now want a piece of somebody else’s network.
“AOL and GTE and others have frankly been misleading,” says Hands Off The
Internet president Chris Wolf, a lawyer who specializes in Internet legal
issues. “The people who are advocating government intervention with respect
to broadband access have been misleading consumers with the suggestion that
this will give consumers more choices. But they will have no choices. If
the government focuses on cable as the preferred means of access and
requires cable companies to carry ISPs at their will, consumers will lose
in the end, because ISPs will have no incentive to look for different ways
to provide high-speed access.”
“Internet access is the most wildly competitive industry in the country
right now,” says Hands Off The Internet executive director Peter Arnold,
listing DSL, satellite and wireless technologies as alternatives to cable.
But Schwartzman believes that cable will eventually provide most people
with their Internet access — and if open access to the network isn’t
ensured, he believes the cable companies will have too much control over
the entryway to the Net.
“It’s so easy to pass this off as a business-page story about a fight
between a bunch of big companies,” says Schwartzman. “But what they are
fighting about is something that citizens and consumers have a huge, huge
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)
Andrew Leonard has been working at Salon as a technology reporter, editor, blogger and staff writer for quite a bit longer than he ever anticipated being employed by an online magazine -- 15 years. He's enjoyed the luck of becoming obsessed with the Internet just before it broke into mainstream
consciousness and the housing bust just before it precipitated a global economic collapse. Prior to becoming a Salon lifer he freelanced for a wide variety of publications, from Newsweek to Rolling Stone to Wired, and wrote a book, "Bots: The Origin of New Species". He lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his two children and he likes to ride his bicycle up hill.