The broadband barbarians will soon control the gates

And close them shut -- what's the point of developing new technologies if nobody can use them?

I suppose I could write about network monitoring or virtualization architecture or maybe app dev, but it all seems pointless in the wake of what's happening with the Internet in the United States. On the one hand, we're building out robust, scalable infrastructures to support all kinds of magic, known and as yet unknown. On the other hand, we're watching the gates close on the very people who would use these infrastructures.

We're so enveloped in bringing new and fantastic technological advancements to our fellow citizens that we're apparently looking the other way as their access to those modern marvels is being frittered away in the backrooms of Washington, D.C. It doesn't matter if you build it if they cannot come.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Comcast and Time Warner join forces to kill the Internet. | For a quick, smart take on the news you'll be talking about, check out InfoWorld TechBrief newsletter. ]

In recent weeks, I've been flummoxed by a certain reaction to the Time Warner/Comcast merger. I've seen all manner of analysis that states with some surprise that this deal is about the Internet, not about cable TV. I can't imagine how anyone didn't think this was mostly about the Internet.

This, fundamentally, is all about the Internet. Cable TV is already dead, winding out its last hurrah, buoyed by pathetic reality TV car accidents and live sports. It will take a generation until it fades away entirely, but make no mistake: Nothing about the Time Warner/Comcast deal has anything to do with cable TV in the long term. It is about controlling the content and delivery of Internet-based communication and entertainment.

Those of us with some sense of how ISPs operate have long lamented the horror show that is U.S. broadband Internet. We've pointed out the lack of competition and the fact that the major ISPs have taken billions in taxpayer money, only to continuously overcharge captive customers while simultaneously brandishing data caps and offering universally reviled "customer service." We've watched a parade of FCC chairmen pay lip service to the concept of actually doing their jobs and reigning in these innovation-killing behemoths. We've continuously pointed to many examples of far better service at lower prices in foreign countries.

All of this evidence is blindingly obvious, demonstrably true, and yet thoroughly useless against well-heeled lobbyists and technologically challenged legislators.

If we place the dawn of the U.S. Internet consciousness at, say, 1995, we're in our 19th year of the new era. The first eight years or so was spent in a huge stampede to gain access, by hook or by crook. Dial-up was the immediate fixation, and the big telcos were overjoyed by the Internet thing, which allowed them to sell lots of phone lines to small ISPs popping up everywhere, alongside expensive T1 circuits. At the same time, a rash of households were suddenly adding second phone lines for Internet access. Without doing much of anything, the regional telcos started raking in big bucks.

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