Would you pay $1,500 to read this post?


With so much sparkly coverage of Beijing inundating our screens this week, you'd be forgiven for feeling a sudden desire to go there to pack a suitcase and check out the city (or what's left of it). What a great modern art scene! What a terrific place to shop!

Allow me to throw a little cold water on your burning travel envy. If you were in Beijing right now, you might have to pay about $1,500 to read this.

Slashdot, the techie blog, is reporting that the Beijing Organizing Committee is charging guests in the Olympic Village between 7713 and 11,700 yuan ($1,125 to $1,708 in our dollars) for a month of Internet access. This in a city where resident businesses pay only about $130 a month.

Well, China, we have to hand it to you. That's a clever way to circumvent the piles of criticism about your Internet censorship: Price the Web so high that no one can even afford to get online to read about the occupation of T-word or Falun G-word. Granted, many of the foreign visitors in the Village will have their tabs paid by corporate sponsors that can afford the gouging.

Complaining about China's censorship seems to assume that the free flow of information is a mark of a modern civilization. Isn't it just as shifty to price the free flow of information beyond the reach of mere mortals? Or is this obvious gouging just a mark of---dare we say it, China?---pure capitalism?