Talk about a Revolution: And you thought the telcos were getting into the entertainment biz because they had stars in their eyes. Not really, folks. More like dollars to lose. A wave of Net-based telephony products (check out http://www.vocaltec.com) have the telcos' long-term seers shakin' in their recently deregulated boots. You heard it here first: the voice business is dead. Repeat: it's not even a commodity; it's doomed. The telcos know it, too. Why else are they rushing to change their images, cut "content" deals, and hire old media barons like Stringer and Ovitz? Look for a complete report in an upcoming Wired.
Things Are Heating Up: The Oklahoma bombing has fueled government hysteria about the evils of free speech (see "New Scapegoat: The Internet," previous page), but that's not the half of it. With the FBI "reinterpreting" current regulations to investigate those it considers "potential terrorists," we'd do well to remember our history. When we approve broad powers for organizations with a proven track record of ignoring civil liberties, we do so at the expense of all our liberties. As one Net denizen put it: "The FBI and all the other three-letter spooks love the Oklahoma bombing and will use it to justify their piglike behavior. It is insulting for the government to even pretend the Bill of Rights means anything anymore. It should at least be honest and burn the original document on national television."
We'll Do It Ourselves, Thanks: While we're on a rant ... who would you rather have telling your kids what they can't watch - you or the government? SurfWatch Software thinks so, too. Its new software lets parents and educators block out the "more than 250 Internet newsgroups which include topics on bestiality, bondage, pornography, and pedophilia." One problem: Surfwatch, not you, decides what's worth blocking. More details: email@example.com.
Don't Touch That Remote: Take note, kids: the cable/telco war is finally getting real. With the formation of @Home, TCI has committed to bringing its subscribers 10 Mbps bandwidth over cable. All that remains to be seen is how much it plans to charge for that pipe. z A Commons Waiting for a Tragedy?: A few hundred residents of The Well, the quintessential online community, have broken ranks and organized into "an open, uncensored, user-owned, user-governed, economically self-sustaining virtual community." Their purpose? To create a place for good conversation free of Net noise, flashy graphics, and commercialism. Each of the 300 members would pay US$100 to open the service and become a voting member of the cooperative. Dubbed the The River, the service would offer unlimited Net access for an additional $20 a month. To inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Players: DreamWorks SKG (that's Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen, for those returning from three months in the Arctic) has had a few naming problems of late. Number One: A Florida movie promotion company called Dreamwerks Production Group is suing SKG for stealing its name - to the tune of $25 million. Number Two: SKG forgot to register "dreamworks.com" with InterNic, and some other net.smartypants now owns it. Ah, the price of names.
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