In the entire history of democracy, and free speech, and open communication, nothing has had a greater impact than the Internet.
Even in North America the Internet plays a vital and democratic role, providing a foil against all the right wing media moguls that are taking over newspapers, networks, talk radio stations, and other mediums to stump their right wing, corporate beliefs.
And as media conglomerates continue to consolidate, controlling the spectrum of views and politics even further, the Internet is really the only open source left for independent and progressive news, and for questioning and challenging authority.
During the Iraq war, many Americans became frustrated with the unquestioning, flag-waving coverage of the major networks. In fear of being labelled unpatriotic or cut out of the loop, prominent news organizations became self-censoring and pandering, apparently forgetting their higher responsibility to present the news objectively.
As a result, Americans who wanted the truth had no choice but to turn to Canadian and European new sources to get the real story a vastly different, and perhaps more accurate, view of events as they unfolded.
People also turned to a growing number of alternative Internet sites like Common Dreams (www.commondreams.org), The Nation (www.thenation.com), Tom Paine (www.tompaine.org), and others independent American media outlets put on level footing with the giants by the Web for news.
The fact that media outlets are finally starting to cover the negative aspects of the war, and the spurious reasoning that led to war, is also largely due to the Internet. The information news organizations knowingly suppressed or exaggerated was getting out anyway via the World Wide Web, calling their own credibility into question. People began to distrust news organizations, and thats bad for business.
Thats not all the Web has been good for.
The Internet has helped propel Vermont governor Howard Dean, a relative unknown, into the frontrunner position in the race for Democratic Party leadership, with most of his campaign funds contributed online.
MoveOn.org has already compiled a list of over two million supporters of progressive causes, and is having an impact on politics and policy.
The Internet is even having a progressive impact in B.C., as public online comment has been invited by the government on a variety of issues.
Enjoy the freedom of the Internet while it lasts.
While dial-up Internet access is more or less protected by ancient laws and regulations pertaining to the phone system, broadband Internet access through DSL and cable is substantially more private in nature.
In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission is considering removing common carrier rules from DSL and cable networks, effectively putting them under the control of media corporations. That in turn could make it harder to access independent media because whoever controls the broadband Internet will be able to control the price independents generally run on shoe-strings and direct content.