Ever stop to wonder what is really happening to the Internet these days?
The crackdown by the music industry on illegal downloading tells just part of the story. Even with the dot-com bust, the digital boom is here, as high-speed connections, faster processors and new wireless devices increasingly become part of life. But the thousands of lawsuits are not just about ensuring record companies and artists get the royalties they deserve. They're part of a larger plan to fundamentally change the way the Internet works.
From Congress to Silicon Valley, the nation's largest communication and entertainment conglomerates -- and software firms that want their business -- are seeking to restructure the Internet, to charge people for high-speed uses that are now free and to monitor content in an unprecedented manner. This is not just to see if users are swapping copyrighted CDs or DVDs, but to create digital dossiers for their own marketing purposes.
All told, this is the business plan of America's handful of telecom giants -- the phone, cable, satellite, wireless and entertainment companies that now bring high-speed Internet access to most Americans. Their ability to meter Internet use, monitor Internet content and charge according to those metrics is how they are positioning themselves for the evolving Internet revolution.