Who rules?

A short history of cable and telephone companies pushing for more control on the Internet

• Comcast was caught blocking BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer Internet services by cybersleuths last fall, and on November 1, 2008, Free Press formally filed a complaint and requested the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the charges. After months of controversy, Comcast backed down just last week and came to an “agreement” with BitTorrent that it would adopt “protocol agnostic” network management policies.

• In September of 2007, Verizon Wireless prevented the NARAL Pro-Choice America organization from sending text messages to members despite the fact that recipients had signed up to receive them.

• AT&T was caught censoring comments by Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder that were critical of President George W. Bush. Vedder made the comments during an August 2007 Webcast concert sponsored by AT&T.

• In February of 2006, Cox Communications Internet users could not access Craigslist for months because of an alleged software bug that overlapped badly with that company’s server. Some said what was deemed an “accident” was a purposeful attempt to protect classified-ad services for Cox, whose newspapers are competitive with Craigslist classified ads.

• In April of 2005, Time Warner’s AOL blocked e-mails that mentioned an advocacy campaign that opposed an AOL pay-to-send-e-mail plan.

• In Canada, the giant telephone company Telus blocked access to www.voices-for-change.ca, a Web site supporting a particular side in a union dispute, for three days in July of 2005.