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Flushing the Net Down the Tubes

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the if-you-read-one-essay-this-year dept.

The Internet 329

netcetra writes "From a post by on CircleID by Phillip J. Windley: 'Doc Searls has written a brilliant piece framing the battle for the Net at Linux Journal. ... if you take the time to read just one essay on the Net and the politics surround it this year, read this one.' Quote from Doc himself: 'This is a long essay. There is, however, no limit to how long I could have made it. The subjects covered here are no less enormous than the Net and its future. Even optimists agree that the Net's future as a free and open environment for business and culture is facing many threats. We can't begin to cover them all or cover all the ways we can fight them. I believe, however, that there is one sure way to fight all of these threats at once, and without doing it the bad guys will win. That's what this essay is about.' Also see additional background on the piece on Doc Searls blog."

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329 comments

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Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (4, Insightful)

Senes (928228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050104)

In other media such as television and radio, it takes a great deal of resouces to be able to broadcast your information outward. Anyone can connect to the internet, and unless ISPs suddenly find the motivation and the money to start taking fine tuned control over what every user does, anyone can host their own information and data.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (0, Offtopic)

buswolley (591500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050109)

first post is usually a bad post...

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (-1, Offtopic)

buswolley (591500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050125)

You should probably mod me down

This article SHOULD have more comments, but... (4, Insightful)

lightyear4 (852813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050803)

...but it is obvious that even the large readership of the slashdot community is either ill informed, indifferent, or uncertain about this issue. Even the article posted at 230am has more activity! This should frighten you!

Make no mistake...the governance of the Internet and the fight for its control is the most important issue currently at stake. Period. Wars will subside, politicians will be replaced, the world will keep turning. However, if the core principles driving the Internet are not preserved, we as diverse citizens of all nations will forever have lost something magnificent.

I have been on the Internet for a long, long time. I remember BBSes at pathetic baudrates, when emails didn't travel between ISPs, when there weren't any advertisements online whatsoever. Those of you that remember these changes and are able to see the Internet --- not as it is nor for what it has become, but for what it must be --- please educate the masses. It must exist as a free, uninhibited enity and REMAIN independent of the infrastructure through which it is accessed. Should the day come when borders and binding structure is imposed upon the Internet, we will all have truly lost the most important medium for communcation, commerce, and culture ever created.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (5, Interesting)

Bonker (243350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050134)

I have to disagree. The problem here is not that the ability is going away, but that the freedom is going away. Those who take the freedom, those who excercise the ability in the face of legislation, are more and more often having to do it at risk to themselves or those around them.

How many companies can I badmouth before they shut me up by suing me?

How longer can I criticize the government before I get sent to Guantanamo?

Widespread lawbreaking indicates a problem with the laws, and not with the crime. This is why copyright law is so ineffective. It's also the reason that drug law doesn't really work.

In this case, however, more power is moving away from inviduals faster than it's coming to them. Of those who take that power back, by whatever means, more and more of them will be made to suffer.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1, Interesting)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050168)

"Widespread lawbreaking indicates a problem with the laws, and not with the crime."

Do you really think that argument holds water? Would you consider the 12,000 murders each year in the United States widespread? If that number isn't high enough, what about the 90,000 rapes? Still not high enough, what about 1.1 million car thefts? Suddenly the numbers are looking pretty widespread and yet I don't think anyone would argue there's a problem with laws against murder, rape or car theft. Want to get even higher? How about the 2.1 million burglaries and 2.2 million assaults?

At what point does a crime start becoming widespread? If murder were at the same rate as copyright infringement, would you argue that both were bad laws, neither were bad laws, or only one?

Oh, stats from here [nationmaster.com] by the way.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1)

Slow Smurf (839532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050196)

I would tend to think he more means both the crime and public opinion is widespread.

What percentage of the public do you think supports car thefts or murder? The only problem with things like this is you also have to admit only knowledgable people are viable to voice an opinion, many if you polled randomly would be unaware of the issue.

Ah well, not like anyone cares what the public thinks now anyway.

Nope, I wouldn't argue any of those numbers ARE... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050234)

widespread.

2.2M represents less than 1% of the population, and the reality is it is a small percentage of repeat offenders.
You want widespread?

Copyright violation is being estimated by the media industries to be occuring on the rate of millions of offenses per day. Millions of users are logged onto P2P networks primarily for copyright infringement purposes (I said primarily, not exclusively).

Minor excess speeding tickets hit a large percentage of the population (upwards of 40% depending on jurisdiction and technologies being applied). That will definitely go up in the UK if/when they roll out those beautiful new speed cams.

Drug crimes hit a large percentage of the population. Sure, lots of people are in jail for violent crimes. But 1 person in 30 in the USA are in jail are because of drug crimes, the majority of those for simple possession. Estimates range, but the low estimates for teenage illicit drug use (one-time or more) is at around 25%.

Those are widespread numbers. Violent crimes (I'm sorry 12,000 murders is not a lot in a population of 280 million) are not. You just hear about the violence a lot whenever you listen to Fox News or whenever the police or government are trying to take your rights away. Even with the drug violence, long term violent crime rates continue to decline.

Re:Nope, I wouldn't argue any of those numbers ARE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050721)

I'm sorry 12,000 murders is not a lot in a population of 280 million

I would say that one murder in a population of 280 million is still one too many.

and yet another take on infringement vs. murder (2, Interesting)

incrhlk (759959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050785)

well...when you consider that most victims of murder knew their killers, (%92 percent among women [endabuse.org] ) and once the victim has been murdered, they can't be murdered again, and no one wants to hang out/befriend a murder.... ...it seems to me that the supply of victims would diminish to a point that a particular killer would have no one left to kill,

Conversely, copyright infringement doesn't limit the supply. In fact the opposite is true, the more infringement the greater the supply. Sure i might not want to commit the same infringement twice, but others still can. Try that with murder. You can only pass the same bloody corpse around so much before it ceases to be interesting.

Re:Nope, I wouldn't argue any of those numbers ARE (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050800)

``But 1 person in 30 in the USA are in jail are because of drug crimes''

I sure hope that's 1 in 30 inmates, not 1 in 30 Americans. Where did you get that data?

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050247)

The United States contains about 296 million people. 12,000 murders divided by 296,000,000 people equates to 0.004% of the population. Similarly, rapes = 0.03%, car thefts = 0.3%, burglaries and assaults = 0.7% each. These are all less than 1% of the population, and in most cases, much less.

On the other hand, anecdotally I'd say that at least a third of the population condones non-commercial copyright infringement (and I'm being conservative in my estimate, and taking into account the propaganda of the RIAA).

The point is, when an act is accepted by a significant proportion of the population, chances are that act is ethical -- in fact, it can be argued that ethics only exist relative to the population. So yeah, if murder and copyright infringment were performed at the same rate, then either both would be acceptable, or neither would. Of course, if a third of the population condoned murder, we'd have a society more similar to the Roman Empire (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Your use of absolute numbers are meaningless, and borderline FUD -- 12,000 out of 12,000 means something completely different than 12,000 out of 296,000,000.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (5, Insightful)

some guy I know (229718) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050719)

when an act is accepted by a significant proportion of the population, chances are that act is ethical
You mean, like slavery in the US 200 years ago?
Or, more recently, the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s?
Or, currently, the systematic violations of your rights that occur at airports every time that you want to make a trip on a commercial airline?
Or the killing of non-human animals for sport?
Or the killing of pre-natal children?
Or the forced indocrination of religion on post-natal children (in church , Sunday-school, etc.)?
Or the idea that it's OK for a government to take a huge chunk of your income and spend it on things to which you are ethically opposed (like war, or Welfare (or both, depending on your point of view))?
Or the idea that Britney Spears has talent and deserves her fame?
Or the idea that it's O.K. for stupid football games to repeatedly preempt a great T.V. program like Firefly, eventually leading to the latter program's demise?

Wait, I appear to be drifting off-topic.
The point that I'm trying to make is that a popular belief is not always ethical, especially by my standards, which are the only ones that I care about anyway.
That's why the U.S. government was created as a republic, not a democracy, and why we have a Supreme Court to curb the excesses of a supposedly popularly-elected Congress.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (4, Insightful)

AGMW (594303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050873)

The point that I'm trying to make is that a popular belief is not always ethical, especially by my standards, which are the only ones that I care about anyway.

You are missing his point. The world's ethics are not set by you, or me, or any individual. They are the current mood of the population. Sure, now the whole concept of slavery seems barbaric, but back in the day, slavery was deemed acceptable/ethical. That's the whole point!

We can look back and wag our fingers about how awful our ancestors were, and not just slavery, but witch burning, any number of religion-based attrocities (nobody expects ...), animal welfare, treatment of indigenous people, the list is probably endless, but at the time, most of the actions were deemed acceptable. As I understand it, if we burnt someone at the stake, we thought we were saving their soul!

I'd say that by definition, the popular vote defines the popular ethical values. Just be thankfull that we have moved on from the time when having different ethical values from the norm might mean you were burnt at the stake for heresy!

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050739)

"12,000 murders divided by 296,000,000 people equates to 0.004% of the population. Similarly, rapes = 0.03%, car thefts = 0.3%, burglaries and assaults = 0.7% each. These are all less than 1% of the population, and in most cases, much less."

Such numbers are a matter of presentation. For instance, at 0.7% per year each and a life expectancy of 70 years, the average number of (burglaries + assaults) gets close to 1 (probably not uniformly distributed). With those numbers, murder gets to about three per mille, so if you know about 300 people, chances are one of them will get murdered.

Alternatively, you could talk things down to the per-second 'chance' of getting the victim of a crime.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1)

in7ane (678796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050861)

And by your logic if you live for longer than 70 years you are likely to be murdered twice!

1 - (1 - 0.007)^70 = 38.8% is the figure you are looking for assults which can reoccur.

and less than 0.279% for murders (which can't)

And that's over your 70 year lifetime

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (0, Flamebait)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050771)

The point is, when an act is accepted by a significant proportion of the population, chances are that act is ethical

Was slavery ethical? Was the holocaust ethical? A resounding "no" on both counts.

The only reason that it happens so frequently is because it can. Before the advent of the digital medium, copyright infringement didn't yield nearly the same quality and was quite a bit of trouble to boot. By contrast, all it takes today is a search term or two, a few mouse clicks, and whatever time it takes for the download to complete.

No matter how you slice it, dice it, or spin it, it all boils down to the fact that copyright infringement involves the acquisition of something of value, without the permission of, or compensation to, its owners. People who want change in the business models used by the content providers NEED TO STOP FUNDING THE CURRENT MODEL.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1)

daliman (626662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050796)

And those who infringe copyright are not funding that model. So good on them :)

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (2, Insightful)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050890)

Some editing is needed to a your last paragraph. You used a term that is not correct.



"No matter how you slice it, dice it, or spin it, it all boils down to the fact that copyright infringement involves the acquisition of something of value, without the permission of, or compensation to, its original creator(s). People who want change in the business models used by the content providers NEED TO STOP FUNDING THE CURRENT MODEL."



This makes a great deal of difference. The creators never owned the copy that the infringer recieved, nor did they own the copy that was used in infringing the copyright at the time of the infringment. And often they never owned that copy at all.

This situation has nothing to do with ownership. (see TFA) Copyright is about privledges granted by restricting others actions. Not rights, and not ownership.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (2, Interesting)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050891)

Was slavery ethical? Was the holocaust ethical?

Only a minority of the slave keeping population seemed to object at the time. Ethics and morality change judging the past by todays standards it ludicrous. IMO, grandparent or whatever is spot on.

Maybe one day the pressures created by the ease of commiting piracy will lead to a more mature society with much more freely available enjoyment.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (5, Insightful)

xkenny13 (309849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050257)

If murder were at the same rate as copyright infringement, would you argue that both were bad laws, neither were bad laws, or only one?

Well, before we do that, let's look a little deeper. Copyright used to last only 14 years. Now it is 70ish years beyond the death of the creator. It has been extended and expanded well beyond it's useful function, and is a horrid aberration of its original intention.

Murder today only applies to the willful killing of a human being. Should this law be extended the way copyright law has been extended ... then what becomes a murder now? What if all manslaughters were murders? How about hitting a dog on the road? Stepping on bugs?

If ALL those things were now considered to be murders, then you would definately have a murder rate comparable to the rate at which copyright infringement occurs.

If all that were true, then yes ... I would definately say there was something wrong with the "murder" law.

To properly answer your question, I would successfully argue that both laws were bad.

While I will agree that this argument initially sounds ludicrous ... remind yourself again how badly manipulated the copyright law is today. Note also for the record that Congress is not done with their rewriting of copyright law.

The ethics of numbers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050390)

"Well, before we do that, let's look a little deeper. Copyright used to last only 14 years. Now it is 70ish years beyond the death of the creator. It has been extended and expanded well beyond it's useful function, and is a horrid aberration of its original intention."

Partially true. However we must keep in mind that laws need to change with circumstances. One people overall live longer than they did when copyright was first enacted. Second society overall has grown beyound what the copyright founders could ever imagine. Also it takes far more in resources to bring some IP to fruitation compared to what it use to take when the founders created copyright. I'm not certain why people have no problem with technology growing and changing, but expect the law to be frozen in one moment of time.

"Murder today only applies to the willful killing of a human being. Should this law be extended the way copyright law has been extended ... then what becomes a murder now? What if all manslaughters were murders? How about hitting a dog on the road? Stepping on bugs?"

An apples to oranges comparison. Copyright extension per your previous complaint is an extension in time. While the other is an extension of circumstance. Anyway society even back in roman times already extended the willful killing of others to the state.e.g. war, and executions. And let's not mention a citizen protecting others, or self-defense.

"If ALL those things were now considered to be murders, then you would definately have a murder rate comparable to the rate at which copyright infringement occurs."

Well as it stands, everybody is guessing. Much as we guess the propagation of Linux.

"While I will agree that this argument initially sounds ludicrous ... remind yourself again how badly manipulated the copyright law is today. Note also for the record that Congress is not done with their rewriting of copyright law."

Note well those absentee landlords, better known as citizens.

Anyway the OP's argument is basically the majority is no more right by virtue of being the majority, than the minority is wrong because it's the minority. In other words you all are going to have to use something other than numbers to justify your ethics.

Re:The ethics of numbers. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050677)

Partially true. However we must keep in mind that laws need to change with circumstances. One people overall live longer than they did when copyright was first enacted. Second society overall has grown beyound what the copyright founders could ever imagine. Also it takes far more in resources to bring some IP to fruitation compared to what it use to take when the founders created copyright. I'm not certain why people have no problem with technology growing and changing, but expect the law to be frozen in one moment of time."

No. Prices have gone down. It's easier NOW than THEN to create IP because the technology is more available.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1)

imsmith (239784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050275)

Don't confuse criminal law and civil law. Violence is substantially different than disobedience.

Just because 0.00004% of the population might get murdured in a given year doesn't mean that the laws aren't needed to maintain the government's monopoly on violence, but the original poster was pointing out that when the behavior of the people is out of whack with the action of the government, the government is at fault first, then the people, not the other way around.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (2, Insightful)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050293)

Hmm... maybe if the GP restated it as widespread law breaking of victimless crimes implies that said law is too oppressive, essentially turning law abiding citizens into victims. It severely narrows down the number and types of crimes covered. And no, copyright theft does not have a victim, noone loses anything.
Regards,
Steve

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050392)

How about the 2.1 million burglaries and 2.2 million assaults?

What percentage of the 18 - 40 year old public (roughly the heart of the burglary market, I would guess) engages in burglary?

What percentage of the 18 - 40 year old public engages in copyright infringement?

At least an order of magnitude difference there, right?

If murder were at the same rate as copyright infringement, would you argue that both were bad laws, neither were bad laws, or only one?

Both. I'll avoid the straw man you've set up by mixing the moral issue of murder with the legal matter of homicide. Ask yourself this - in societies where the percentage of the population that engages in homicide reaches double digits, isn't it obvious that the laws are broken? South Africa, Tombstone, Yugoslavia, Boston in the 1770's, Nicaragua, South Central LA, The Gangs of New York, Paris before The Revolution - in every case homicide became commonplace because the laws were enforced inconsistently and/or prejudicially. What is more wrong in those cases; fighting for your way of life or letting the injustice stand? We celebrate the people who committed homicide in the name of The American Revolution. So yes, when homicide becomes as commonplace as copyright infringement is today, it loses it's objective, absolute "wrong"-ness.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050498)

Perhaps you should have used speeders and speed limit laws, instead.

Better numbers and all that.

When I meet a single person... (2, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050513)

When I meet a single person over the age of 20 that has gone a decade without commiting copyright violation, I'll let you know.

Maybe there is something wrong with the law. (4, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050651)

When so many people break the law, maybe there is something wrong with the law. Maybe there is something wrong with how the problem of intellectual property rights is being approached.

I've seen NO creative thinking about IP rights. There's a lot of talk, but very little serious progress.

Maybe history is a guide. For example, did you notice how libraries made all publishers go bankrupt? Not.

Did you notice that television and video tape recorders utterly destroyed the movie industry? Not.

I don't download music. However, if I did, it is obvious to me that I would get interested and would buy more CDs.

I had several very bad experiences with the music industry and their marketing methods. The industry is extremely adversarial toward its artists and its customers. Over time, that caused me to listen to music less and less. What I'm seeing however, is that music industry leaders want to fix their problems without fixing the problems they create for me.

The world is dominated by people who believe that interacting with other people requires fighting. In fact, the only real solutions to social problems come from thinking.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (2, Informative)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050746)

Said by DoorFrame:
Do you really think that argument holds water? Would you consider the 12,000 murders each year in the United States widespread? If that number isn't high enough, what about the 90,000 rapes? Still not high enough, what about 1.1 million car thefts? Suddenly the numbers are looking pretty widespread and yet I don't think anyone would argue there's a problem with laws against murder, rape or car theft. Want to get even higher? How about the 2.1 million burglaries and 2.2 million assaults?

I believe OP was refering to widespread as meaning it's being done the the vast majority of the population, average people, not hardened criminals.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (3, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050184)

How many companies can I badmouth before they shut me up by suing me?

How longer can I criticize the government before I get sent to Guantanamo?


A hell of a lot of people do both EVERY DAY on the internet. The majority of people aren't getting sued or sent to Guantanamo Bay. It doesn't appear that there will be a large amount of people going to either place.

Coercing people by threat of litigation or wrongful imprisonment IS wrong. But that doesn't really have anything to do with the internet. It's a problem in American society, that has moved onto the internet. You can't solve it for the internet only though, without solving it for the rest of society.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (4, Insightful)

BrynM (217883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050254)

Don't forget that most major broadband ISPs block known server ports and restrict you from running servers in their EULA. At first it was so businesses didn't just start using broadband in lieu of "premium" accounts. Too bad, because broadband is so common now that it's what most businesses use anyway. The only real "cost" the ISP incurrs by making them use a "premium" account is a higher bandwidth cap and un-blockings some ports. It's an anachronistic practice, but greed keeps it going.

Running a personal wiki or having a photo-share server for friends seems like a technical imposibility to most lay people because of this. The truth is, most of it can be done with easy to use software today. It should be trivial for the end user. Run an installer and start going. I seem to remember dreams of this being what the internet was for - back in the day... Remember when having a webcam wasn't mainly just for IM?

Yes I know that script kiddies have made this idea a playground for malware and things need to be blocked upstream for authentication-less ports sometimes. I do firmly believe that if everyone knew it was initially prety much their right to add their info to the internet, MS would have never been so lax and security would have had the focus by all of us that it should have gotten. The software that enables a home desktop to be a server would be way more mature due to popularity. In some ways, IM epitomizes this need to share with eachother.

Another whiney burden on society (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050271)

How longer can I criticize the government before I get sent to Guantanamo?

Next week, I hope.

So when will you losers stop using Gitmo as a bogeyman and move on to some other spectre?

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (4, Insightful)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050166)

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Are you vigilant?

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050180)

Yes, it's cheaper to publish information on the Net than in almost any other media, but it's also cheaper and easier to block said content on the Net than almost any other media. It's not about ISPs finding motivation to block people, it's about governments and other organizations (through lawsuits and other means) providing ISPs the motivation to do so. It is then up to the ISPs to find the motivation to resist those efforts, and most ISPs don't care enough to bother.

In the old days of mom and pop ISPs, when profit margins were (relatively) high, and the Internet was more of a wild frontier, the ISPs often fought tooth and nail to keep from giving away even the most innocuous of customer data to anyone. These days, however, the mom and pop ISP is virtually nonexistent, and the margins in the ISP business are not sufficient to allow any ISP to protect the rights of its clients.

The Internet is still the most "free" of all available media, but that status is definitely under threat. As more powerful and wealthy interest groups bring more pressure on ISPs and other content publishers, the more difficult it will be for the average Joe to find a place where his voice can be freely expressed online.

Re:Internet freedom isn't going anywhere. (2, Insightful)

try_anything (880404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050215)

That cheap, easy, and free quality is purely accidental and is exactly what needs to be protected. The internet happens to be the way it is because of its history. It became indispensable before governments had time to take control. The Saudi government would have created an internet that sent an email to the police when a woman logs on, the US government would have created an internet that couldn't be used without paying a corporation, and every government would have created an internet that gave it complete surveillance power over users within its borders. For now, governments must accept the internet as it is, but they will work to correct these perceived shortcomings, and hence destroy the free nature of the internet.

I sense a great disturbance in the force (5, Funny)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050121)

as if millions of bytes of ram screamed in agony, and were suddenly silenced. /.ed before any comments isn't a good sign.

Re:I sense a great disturbance in the force (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050153)

Well, that's what MirrorDot [mirrordot.com] is for.

Timing? (1, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050123)

So if this is so important to read, why is it being posted so late at night in the region where this article should have the most impact.

Re:Timing? (2, Funny)

buswolley (591500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050132)

Nothing to see here. Move along.

George Bush says (4, Funny)

cloudkj (685320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050128)

Don't worry, guys. Even if we lose one Internet to the bad guys, there are still plenty of Internets to go around.

Re:George Bush says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050382)

And know what? It's actually true. There's absolutely no reason that there has to be only one internet and actually you'ld know there are more than one if you had a clue. Or perhaps you have not even the tinyest sliver of knowledge about what the definition of an internet is (no surprise) and instead only rely on a shallow impression of the use of Internet as a noun.

Getting rid of the trash. (-1, Offtopic)

Brantano (908473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050133)

Heres an easy way to clean up the internet. Force everyone to backup there webpages and Data, give them a few months to do so. Keep there information however, so they can easilly log in and re-do there websites. Then massively delete every single site on the internet. It would need the coloboration between just about every web-host out there, but it would surely clean up the sites that are never updated, get rid of all the trash, and force people to re-update there sites.

Of course people could re-submit there web trash, but it could be monitored with some effort. I of course know that this could pretty much never happen, but its a dream. ^_^

Re:Getting rid of the trash. (2, Funny)

boog3r (62427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050154)

The other option to clean up the internet is teaching people the correct use of THEIR, THERE and THEY'RE.

Not to mention TWO, TOO and TO.

Don't forget about YOU'RE, YOUR and YORE.

Oops, almost forgot ITS and IT'S.

Re:Getting rid of the trash. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050164)

Don't forget about boog3r and booger.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

thegameiam (671961) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050176)

and maybe we can keep the net free...

Re:MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050270)

If you are not a moderator, please do not moderate. Instead, feel free to meta-moderate [slashdot.org] .

Re:Getting rid of the trash. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050178)

Don't forget the neverending LOSE/LOOSE problem, a personal crusade of mine.

Re:Getting rid of the trash. (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050202)

What are you, an idiot?

First of all, it's impossible to force everyone to do anything. Second, it's impossible to massively delete every single site on the Internet. Third, even if you got every "web-host" to assist you, you still wouldn't get half the sites because they're hosted directly on the owner's machine. Fourth, web sites are not the Internet. There's IRC, Usenet, email, ftp, and about a million other protocols -- there's even still gopher!

Finally, and most importantly, your entire idea is wrong. It's exactly the opposite of what the Internet is supposed to be, which is unmonitored and Free.

Re:Getting rid of the trash. (2, Funny)

govt-serpent (600668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050838)

Of course we can delete the internet. Kris Kristofferson could do it. There's that device to delete the internet inside the president's desk.

Well... (1)

briancarnell (94247) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050143)

Yes, he could have made it longer, but probably would have made even less sense than it does now. Searls never seems to be able to write anything that is easily understandable except by the small group of people who think just like he does. Sorry, but one comment in a single article by an SBC flak does not the end of the Internet make.

Yes, I can sneak a comment in!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050144)

For once in my life I can type a comment to a Slashdot article and actually see it, as opposed to is usually being lost forever in a jungle of comments, and bad management system in general. :)

Greed... (4, Interesting)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050147)

...still one of my favorite sins.

That and pride are the two things causing the current dark ages of the internet.

And make no mistake, we are in what future scholars will call the dark ages. We have this wonderful tool for communication which would enable vast networks of not just information, but concepts and ideas to be shared globally. And we are letting ( yes, letting ) big companies/governments take control and destroy this wonderful tool. All to satisfy some board of share holders, or some CEO's pride.

Whether they see us as the depth of the dark ages, or the beginning is the question I worry about.

Re:Greed... (1, Funny)

Basehart (633304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050231)

"And make no mistake, we are in what future scholars will call the dark ages."

And those scholars will be in what future scholars will call the mauve ages.

Re:Greed... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050250)

Hey, dumbfuck. It's greed that has led to the explosive growth of the Net from an academic backwater to what it has become.

Seriously, you ideologues need to purge your minds of that shit once and for all. Oooo! Big evil CEOs and shareholders. Ooooo! What are you? Six years old?

Grow the fuck up already. You think all those routers and millions of miles of fiber and cable grow on trees?

Re:Greed... (5, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050294)

Do you honestly think that we are in a 'dark ages'? We are accelerating so quickly technologically and connecting so fast that I don't think the average human comprehends it. Think back just 10 years ago. Most people were not connected to the Internet. Internet usage has sky rocketed up faster then anything in our wildest dreams. Further, it isn't even the Internet. Cell phones are another fine example. I remember being awed by my friends massive clunky cell phone in the mid 90's that got shit for reception. Now, it is easier to count the people I know who don't own a cell phone then it is to count the people that do. I got a jump drive I keep in my pocket the other day for $20 with more hard drive space then the computer I owned back in 95.

Further, it isn't just technology that is interconnecting. The entire world is interconnecting. China, EU, and the US are all so dependent upon each other that any sort of conflict between them is unthinkable to the point that loss of one could lead to a collapsing (or at least crippled) society in the others.

Look, I am not saying that everything is rosy colored and wonderful, but point to a time in history that was better. Do you long for the brutal dictatorships that existed almost exclusively up until the past few centuries? Do you miss the wonderful days of the industrial revolution when it was common place to die early and lose a hand in hazardous machinery? Maybe you miss the days of American expansion westward and European colonialism that chewed up the natives they got in the way. Do you long for the days when a married woman couldn't own property, much less vote? Maybe you miss the good old days of New Deal, complete with withering racism and World War. Maybe your nostalgia only reaches back a couple days and blindly forgets the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the ever present and very real threat of nuclear annihilation, and starvation in the millions that afflicted pretty much everyone on the Asian content. If this is the Dark Ages, what the hell exactly was everything that came before this time?

This is only "The Dark Ages" is you are a jaded liberal who has some how managed to shrink his view of history down to the past 6 years or so. Stop, take a deep breath, and realize that 6 years is a hiccup in the grand scheme of things. Further, even in those 6 years things have gotten better despite Bush's ham fisted blundering. Further still, things are better now then they were at any other time in history.

Honestly, take a deep breath and realize that the world isn't so bad. You can post angry rants on Slashdot, you clearly have an Internet connection, chances are you can vote, and I imagine you probably are not starving. Those four things alone make this time in history better then all the times before it. Relax and don't let today's day to day politics get you all worked up and taint your view of history in the long term.

Re:Greed... (2, Insightful)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050577)

I would like to point out that it was the liberals who fought for womens rights, civil rights, clean air, and unions. They are still fighting for more and are still being resisted by the same forces.

I suppose it all depends on whether you look at the glass as being half full or half empty. In this day and age we have the power and the technology to ensure that nobody is starving, that nobody has to die from poverty or war or famine. All it takes is a little money and little will.

Re:Greed... (5, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050753)

I would like to point out that it was the liberals who fought for womens rights, civil rights, clean air, and unions. They are still fighting for more and are still being resisted by the same forces.

Don't take my comment that liberals think the world is coming to an end as a statement against liberals. My point was more that liberals are more inclined to look for the doom and gloom over the past few years and declare that the world is about to come to an end. Pick a broad liberal ideal; civil rights, health care quality/coverage, infant mortality/life expectancy, hunger, tolerance, wages / hours, whatever, it is better today then it was 50 years ago. We are even more well off if you look a 100 years back. Look 200 years back and the difference is so stark that it isn't even a meaningful comparison. The liberals are winning.

If anyone has reason to cry doom and gloom it is actually the right wing folks. All of their 'morality' issues are being hacked to pieces. There is more sex for non reproductive purposes, greater acceptance of homosexuals, proportionally fewer marriages, more broken homes, and all of the bread and butter of a conservative platform. Hell, the fact that we are at the point where we can even have a gay marriage debate is rocking conservatives to the core. Just 15 years back, talking about gay marriage would illicit roughly the response of talking about bestiality.

I suppose it all depends on whether you look at the glass as being half full or half empty. In this day and age we have the power and the technology to ensure that nobody is starving, that nobody has to die from poverty or war or famine. All it takes is a little money and little will.

There certainly is more that could be done, but the relics of the past do not easily die. There is no amount of money, technology, and will that could make North Korea a happy place unless by 'happy place' you mean 'war zone'. War and famine are political problems. No one in this world should starve. Not only do we have more then enough food for everyone, but we are trying to get that food to the people. Somalia is a perfect example of this. Somalians are not starving because the rest of the world is unwilling to feed them. Somalians are starving because short of going in guns blazing, we can't we can't keep our aid out of the hands of warlords. In fact, this very dilemma is what resulted in the US invading Somalia. We wanted to give them food. We had the food and the means to get it there; we just needed to keep warlords from taking it. If you recall, things didn't go so well when we tried to intervene (IE see Black Hawk Down).

So sure, we could certainly do more, it just boils down to disagreement as to how to do more (does globalism hurt or help?), and the problems with humans some times sucking no matter how much power and technology you have. The larger point is that even though we certainly screw up, fail politically, and in general act like the imperfect humans that we are, we are still steam rolling forward. Things are getting better. A political charged look at the best 6 years might make you think differently, but the second you look at this era from a historical point of view, it quickly becomes clear which direction things are headed. Now is a great time to be alive.

Umm, not sure what 'net you are on (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050310)

But that doesn't seem to be happening on the Internet I use. Companies have a bigger presence than every and there is mroe and more commercial Internet, but I find that in no way interferes with any of the rest of it since you just access what you want. I haven't had anyone try to stop me from hosting free sites on the topics I want, I haven't had webservice get scarce, on the contrary, the barrier for entry seems to be lower than ever.

So what's the dark age you are talking about? What is destroying the net? The only thing I've seen receantly is all that stupidity about DNS which was just politicians playing games, nothing was ever going to come of that.

Hey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050437)

Don't ask him what net he's on, ask him what planet he's on lol

Personally I think it's the "whining idiot"-planet.

Re:Umm, not sure what 'net you are on (1)

cakesy (886563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050808)

Just because you can do these things now, doesn't mean that you will not be able to do them in the future. The whole point of the article, is that the web is being taken over by companies, and they have no reason to let you keep using the net for whatever you want. It will become like television, where you can basically watch stuff or buy stuff.

Some people stick there heads in the sands until it is too late. Other like to see trends, try to predict where things are going, and maybe stop bad things from happening. You are the former.

Re:Greed... (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050468)

And we are letting ( yes, letting ) big companies/governments take control and destroy this wonderful tool.


Where do you think this "wonderful tool" came from?

this is just silly (4, Insightful)

kaan (88626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050191)

I know all kinds of smart people try really hard to predict things like this, and they give all sorts of explanations that "support" their position. But here is why the Internet won't go away: it is useful, and people like it.

If you look throughout history, in all cultures, if people find something to be useful, no amount of government or corporate intervention or regulation will dissuade those people from doing what they want. Despite most citizens not giving a shit about voting in government elections, very few people will stand by and allow a government or corporation to take away something they want. It just does not happen. This happens all over the world, in all cultures, and when this stand-off becomes a big enough event, it makes the news as a "revolution".

So no, the internet isn't going to be flushed down the tubes by ISPs or whatever, because consumers will not allow it.

Re:this is just silly (1)

dpreston (906415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050201)

really? well, that's good, because i was afraid things like this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2005/11/16/AR2005111601047.html?nav=rss_email/c omponents [washingtonpost.com] would happen. you're right, people would never let a freedom-bearing principle be taken away from us...the votes aren't what matters, we like it, and they can't take it! ...oops...

Re:this is just silly (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050295)

So no, the internet isn't going to be flushed down the tubes by ISPs or whatever, because consumers will not allow it.
You know, statements like this illustrate exactly why this will happen. The problem is the "consumer" attitude people have these days. Newsflash: "consumers" are cattle. Make no mistake: the "consumers" will not only allow this, they'll let themselves be deluded into thinking they like it. Witness the people even here on Slashdot who talk about how the DRM on iTunes is "okay because it's not as bad as that other DRM" when they should be loudly protesting against any DRM!

If we want to get through to the people, one thing we need to do is banish "consumer" from the public vocabulary. I, for one, am not a "consumer!" No, I am a customer, and more importantly, a citizen! I WILL NOT BE FUCKED WITH!

Now, who's with me?

Re:this is just silly (1)

RovingSlug (26517) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050305)

Newsflash: "consumers" are cattle. Make no mistake: the "consumers" will not only allow this, they'll let themselves be deluded into thinking they like it. ... I, for one, am not a "consumer!" No, I am a customer, and more importantly, a citizen! I WILL NOT BE FUCKED WITH!

Really? Aside from pounding your fist, shouting, and cursing on Slashdot, what have you actually done about it? Angry cattle are still cattle.

Re:this is just silly (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050363)

I've been boycotting Sony, Microsoft, and companies affiliated with the RIAA. I've also been emailing my Senators and Representatives, and will be joining the EFF and ACLU once I get some cash (I'm a poor college student). Finally, I try to educate everyone I can about this kind of thing (on and off Slashdot). How's about that, Mr. holier-than-thou?

Re:this is just silly (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050379)

If we want to get through to the people, one thing we need to do is banish "consumer" from the public vocabulary. I, for one, am not a "consumer!" No, I am a customer, and more importantly, a citizen! I WILL NOT BE FUCKED WITH!

Big words. Too bad they don't mean anything.

For starters, if they did, you wouldn't feel the need to pepper your statements with profanity.

Then, there's your tacit request for support, ("Now, who's with me") and the utter lack of any specificity. If they don't treat you as a "customer", what are you going to do, except maybe yell profanity?

If you really want to do something, then I suggest you do so. Start an organization, keep a membership, ask for dues, put up a website, print up some business cards, the whole shebang.

Doing so would really help you grow, help you become a bigger person, and help you see your true role in society. (hint: It's bigger than you think) But, if you don't do the above, if instead you sit in your mother's basement typing profanity, you'll get nowhere.

PS: If your mother pays the bill, you are a consumer, she is the customer.

Re:this is just silly (2, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050560)

Do I wish there was no DRM? Certainly. I also wish there was no NEED for DRM. Unfortunately, those two viewpoints are not easily reconciled.

Re:this is just silly (2, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050620)

if people find something to be useful, no amount of government or corporate intervention or regulation will dissuade those people from doing what they want.

Read some history books. Apartheid, Slavery, The War of The Northern Aggression (and its aftermath), Native Americans, The Strikebreakers (the early 1900s ones), The East India Trading Company, The Aborigines. Heck, I don't even know much history and I can rattle off that list of corporate backed and long-lived oppression. Those things lasted decades, centuries. Heck, Native Americans and The Aborigines are still unresolved and festering issues of connected money co-opting government to screw those with less influence. The repurcussions from every one of those issues still rumble deeply through the global economy. This great self-righting machine we all believe in may work in the extremely long run, from a macro perspective, but massive catastrophic periods of regression are almost as common as periods of advancement.

I'd even say that the "almost" in that last sentence may only be there because we seem to be in the midst of an up trend at the moment. If a few untimely terrorist nukes take out any 2 or 3 of LA, NYC, Paris, Berlin, London, and Tokyo, we would be on the fast track to a new dark age - not just from the ensuing panic, but from the carte blanche we would give the military industrial complex. Halliburton has wet dreams about it.

All that is not to say there is no hope, but that freedom isn't free. Speaking from the US perspective, it is our duty to defend our nation against all aggressors, foreign and domestic. At the moment there are domestic aggressors that are, IMO, more dangerous to our economy and technological advancement than the foreign aggressors with whom we are openly engaged. If we act now, it doesn't have to reach the level where a revolution is necessary. If we just believe it will all come out OK and do nothing, a revolution will happen, and nobody wants that.

And it's not that far off. The sabre rattling is deafening; the Internet governance battle, severe rifts in NATO, US pundits calling for the UN to be dismantled, US refusal to join the Hague. If we continue to flip the world the bird, they are going to gang up on us. Now look here at home; talk of "the nuclear option" in congress, the no-quarter battle over ID, laws blatantly purchased by corporations, and equally blatantly ignored by huge swaths of the populace. If the world gangs up on us, a big chunk of "us" is going to side with "them."

Re:this is just silly (1)

snafu109 (852770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050688)

because consumers will not allow it

That's exactly what we all are now. "Consumers" not "people".

Thank You! (1)

Arctic Fox (105204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050227)

I wasn't going to read the essay anyway before posting, but I appreciate you telling me that it's too long to read.

Slashdot: "Commenting now with 50% less guilt!"

Searls overstates his case (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050230)

Check out Tim Lee's lengthy response. He argues (and I suspect most Slashdotters will agree) that, "The Internet is a massive, chaotic, fiercely competitive ecosystem. No one carrier owns more than a tiny fraction of its capacity. No one company controls more than a tiny fraction of its content. In short, no one company is ever going to control the Internet." The complete rebuttal is available at http://www.techliberation.com/archives/027010.php [techliberation.com]

Re:Searls overstates his case (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050544)

Thank God.

Everyone knows that fiercely competitive ecosystems never get slaughtered down to the last species. The internet will survive!

Re:Searls overstates his case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050613)

--> "In short, no one company is ever going to control the Internet"

Unless I'm mistaken, ICANN is a company (corporation technically) even though it is non-profit
"those who control the DNS control the Internet"

Re:Searls overstates his case (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050854)

I want to visit that link but its blocked by Websense as an "advocacy website", how is it advocacy if its the creator of the web?...

Slashdotted Already (1)

fastdecade (179638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050245)

Can someone please post it.

You mean the **AA? (3, Insightful)

tadauphoenix (127728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050256)

Only commenting on the article post... it's the "bad guys" that made the internet what it is, including raising the bar in bandwidth requirements and security. Balance without "bad guys" in any environment is impossible. If it weren't for RIAA smashing napster, we probably wouldn't have torrents (at least not yet). Balance.

tfa, less some formatting (0, Redundant)

sonictheboom (546359) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050262)

Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes
By Doc Searls on Wed, 2005-11-16 02:00. Industry News
We're hearing tales of two scenarios--one pessimistic, one optimistic--for the future of the Net. If the paranoids are right, the Net's toast. If they're not, it will be because we fought to save it, perhaps in a new way we haven't talked about before. Davids, meet your Goliaths.
-
This is a long essay. There is, however, no limit to how long I could have made it. The subjects covered here are no less enormous than the Net and its future. Even optimists agree that the Net's future as a free and open environment for business and culture is facing many threats. We can't begin to cover them all or cover all the ways we can fight them. I believe, however, that there is one sure way to fight all of these threats at once, and without doing it the bad guys will win. That's what this essay is about.

Here's a brief outline of the article. If you want to go straight to the solution, skip to the third section:

Scenario I: The Carriers Win

Scenario II: The Public Workaround

Scenario III: Fight with Words and Not Just Deeds

-

Scenario I: The Carriers Win

Be afraid. Be very afraid. --Kevin Werbach.

Are you ready to see the Net privatized from the bottom to the top? Are you ready to see the Net's free and open marketplace sucked into a pit of pipes built and fitted by the phone and cable companies and run according to rules lobbied by the carrier and content industries?

Do you believe a free and open market should be "Your choice of walled garden" or "Your choice of silo"? That's what the big carrier and content companies believe. That's why they're getting ready to fence off the frontiers.

And we're not stopping it.

With the purchase and re-animation of AT&T's remains, the collection of former Baby Bells called SBC will become the largest communications company in the US--the new Ma Bell. Verizon, comprised of the old GTE plus MCI and the Baby Bells SBC didn't grab, is the new Pa Bell. That's one side of the battlefield, called The Regulatory Environment. Across the battlefield from Ma and Pa Bell are the cable and entertainment giants: Comcast, Cox, TimeWarner and so on. Covering the battle are the business and tech media, which love a good fight.

The problem is that all of these battling companies--plus the regulators--hate the Net.

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. The thing is, they're hostile to it, because they don't get it. Worse, they only get it in one very literal way. See, to the carriers and their regulators, the Net isn't a world, a frontier, a marketplace or a commons. To them, the Net is a collection of pipes. Their goal is to beat the other pipe-owners. To do that, they want to sell access and charge for traffic.

There's nothing wrong with being in the bandwidth business, of course. But some of these big boys want to go farther with it. They don't see themselves as a public utility selling a pure base-level service, such as water or electricity (which is what they are, by the way, in respect to the Net). They see themselves as a source of many additional value-adds, inside the pipes. They see opportunities to sell solutions to industries that rely on the Net--especially their natural partner, the content industry.

They see a problem with freeloaders. On the tall end of the power curve, those 'loaders are AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other large sources of the container cargo we call "content". Out on the long tail, the freeloaders are you and me. The big 'loaders have been getting a free ride for too long and are going to need to pay. The Information Highway isn't the freaking interstate. It's a system of private roads that needs to start charging tolls. As for the small 'loaders, it hardly matters that they're a boundless source of invention, innovation, vitality and new business. To the carriers, we're all still just "consumers". And we always will be.

"Piracy" is a bigger issue to the cargo sources than to the carriers. To the carriers, "fighting piracy" is a service offering as well as a lever on regulators to give carriers more control of the pipes. "You want us to help you fight piracy?", the transport companies say to the content companies. "Okay, let's deal." And everybody else's freedoms--to invent, to innovate, to do business, to take advantage of free markets and to make free culture--get dealt away.

The carriers have been lobbying Congress for control of the Net since Bush the Elder was in office. Once they get what they want, they'll put up the toll booths, the truck scales, the customs checkpoints--all in a fresh new regulatory environment that formalizes the container cargo business we call packet transport. This new environment will be built to benefit the carriers and nobody else. The "consumers"? Oh ya, sure: they'll benefit too, by having "access" to all the good things that carriers ship them from content providers. Is there anything else? No.

Crocodile grins began to grow on the faces of carriers as soon as it became clear that everything we call "media" eventually would flow through their pipes. All that stuff we used to call TV, radio, newspapers and magazines will just be "content" moving through the transport layer of the pipe system they own and control. Think it's a cool thing that TV channels are going away? So do the carriers. The future à lá carte business of media will depend on one medium alone: the Net. And the Net is going to be theirs.

The Net's genie, which granted all those e-commerce wishes over the past ten years, won't just get shoved back in the bottle. No, that genie will be piped and priced by the packet. The owners of those pipes have a duty to their stockholders to make the most of the privileged position they've been waiting to claim ever since they got blind-sided, back in the 80s and 90s. (For an excellent history of how the European PTTs got snookered by the Net and the Web, see Paul F. Kunz' Bringing the World Wide Web to America.) They have assets to leverage, dammit, and now they can.

Does it matter that countless markets flourish in the wide spaces opened by agreements and protocols that thrive at the grace of carriage? Or that those markets are threatened by new limits, protections and costs imposed at the pipe level?

No.

Thus, the Era of Net Facilitation will end. The choke points are in the pipes, the permission is coming from the lawmakers and regulators, and the choking will be done. No more free rides, folks. Time to pay. It's called creating scarcity and charging for it. The Information Age may be here, but the Industrial Age is hardly over. In fact, there is no sign it will ever end.

The carriers are going to lobby for the laws and regulations they need, and they're going to do the deals they need to do. The new system will be theirs, not ours. The NEA principle--Nobody owns it, Everybody can use it, Anybody can improve it--so familiar to the Free Software and Open Source communities will prove to be a temporary ideal, a geek conceit. Code is not Law. Culture is not Free. From the Big Boys' perspective, code and culture are stuff nobody cares about.

That's us: Nobody.

The new carrier-based Net will work in the same asymmetrical few-to-many, top-down pyramidal way made familiar by TV, radio, newspapers, books, magazines and other Industrial Age media now being sucked into Information Age pipes. Movement still will go from producers to consumers, just like it always did. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Literally.

The deals that matter will be done between tops of pyramids. Hey, it's easier to do business with the concentrated few than the dispersed many. The Long Tail can whip itself into a frenzy, but all the tech magazines and blogs in the world are no match for the tails and teeth of these old sharks. (Hey, Long Tailer, when's the last time you treated your erected representatives to private movie screenings, drafted their legislation, ghosted their committee reports, made a blockbuster movie or rolled fiber across oceans?)

Google and Yahoo and Amazon and eBay and e-commerce and free software and open source and blogging and podcasting and all the rest of that idealistic junk have had their decade in the sun. Hell, throw in Apple and Microsoft, too. Who cares? Them? Doesn't matter how big they are. They don't matter. They're late to the game.

We all know the content business got clobbered by this peer-to-peer crap. But the carriers took a bath by building out the Net's piped infrastructure. They sank $billions by the dozen into fiber and copper and routers and trunks, waiting for the day when they'd be in a position to control the new beast fleshed on the skeleton that they built.

That Day Has Come.

It came earlier this month, when the November 7, 2005, issue of BusinessWeek hit the Web's streets. In that issue are "Rewired and Ready for Combat" and "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope'", which features an interview with Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC. Here's the gist of it:

>>>
How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG), MSN, Vonage, and others?

How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

What's your approach to regulation? Explain, for example, the difference between you and Verizon in how you are approaching regulatory approval for Telco TV [digital-TV service offered by telecoms].

The cable companies have an agreement with the cities: They pay a percentage of their revenue for a franchise right to broadcast TV. We have a franchise in every city we operate in based on providing telephone service.

Now, all of a sudden, without any additional payment, the cable companies are putting telephone communication down their pipes and we're putting TV signals. If you want us to get a franchise agreement for TV, then let's make the cable companies get a franchise for telephony.

If cable can put telephone down their existing franchise I should be able to put TV down my franchise. It's kind of a "what's fair is fair" deal. I think it's just common sense.

What if the regulators don't agree?

Then there won't be any competition--there will be a cable-TV monopoly.

I know you're a competitive person. Who are your biggest competitors?

Our big competition in the future is with the cable companies. Verizon's going to be a player, and certainly I want to compete. And I want our shareowners to do better than anyone else.

If I were BusinessWeek, I'd ask:

What about the free and open marketplace that has grown on the Net itself? Do you have any interest in continuing to support that? Or in lobbying forms of deregulation that foster it? Or are you just in a holy war with the cable companies inside the same old regulatory environment you've known since forever?

I'd ask:

If you were to buy, say, Level 3, would you start to filter and restrict content at the transport level, to extract the profits you want, without regard for other market consequences? Would Cisco, builder of the great Firewall of China, help out?

I'd ask:

Which do you prefer: The regulatory environment where your business has adapted itself for more than a century, or a completely free and open marketplace like the rest of us enjoy sitting on top of your pipes?

Whiteacre's answers, of course, would be less relevant than the obvious vector of his company's intentions. For a summary of that, let's return to Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility:

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the telcos have been moving rapidly through massive consolidation--and a range of other tactics--to create an environment where "competition" will only be a pale reflection of what we were originally promised, with only a few gigantic players in control of all telecom resources and policies. Like the robot cop in Terminator 2 that reformed from blown-apart mercurial blobs of metal, the "golden age" of telecom competition is already giving way to empire.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the telcos have been moving rapidly through massive consolidation--and a range of other tactics--to create an environment where "competition" will only be a pale reflection of what we were originally promised, with only a few gigantic players in control of all telecom resources and policies. Like the robot cop in Terminator 2 that reformed from blown-apart mercurial blobs of metal, the "golden age" of telecom competition is already giving way to empire.

Don't blame BusinessWeek for not asking the important questions or for missing the Carriers vs. Net story. Biz pubs love to cover vendor sports. And there's certainly a big story here.

Great distraction, vendor sports. While we're busy watching phone and cable giants fight over a closed battlefield that ought to be open, we miss Net-hostile moves by other parties that result in other lost freedoms.

Take ICANN, for instance, where a new .com Registry Agreement allows Verisign to raise the rates for .com names by 7% annually, and to operate .com in perpetuity, and to "mak[e] commercial use of, or collect, traffic data regarding domain names or non-existent domain names", and to reap other rewards for what few other than Verisign would agree is a good job. Bret Faucett summarizes the darkest shadow across the noir scenario we've already described:

The theme running through all of these is that ICANN and Verisign are treating the .COM registry as a private resource. It's not. The root servers and TLD servers are public resources. We should treat them like that.

Bret has one of the most eloquent voices in the wilderness of clues the Big Boys would rather avoid. So does Susan Crawford, who was just, perhaps miraculously, named to the ICANN board.

For Bret, Susan and the rest of the restless natives of this new world, what matters most is Saving the Net--keeping it a free and open marketplace for everybody--while also making sure that carriers of all kinds can compete and succeed while providing much of the infrastructure on which that marketplace resides. That means we need to understand the Net as more than a bunch of pipes and business on the Net as more than transporting and selling "content".

This isn't a trivial issue. It's a matter of life and death for the Net itself. How are we going to fight?

Read on.
Scenario II: The Public Workaround

The deathblow comes from the muni Wi-Fi efforts. It doesn't matter whether they are viable or not--all they need do is give local connectivity the moral high ground and represent a grass roots effort that the legislature not only can't ignore but can embrace. --Bob Frankston

In ancient telco lingo, "bypass" is anything that works around the phone system itself. Susan Crawford wisely encourages bypassing not only the system but the whole notion of fixing it with "Network Neutrality" agreements or legislation. In response to the questions, "What, if any, version of common carriage rules should govern Internet communications platforms? More specifically, can some concept of Network Neutrality be defined and enforced proactively in the form of prescriptive regulations?", she answers,

I think this is the wrong question. It assumes the limited world of online access providers we've got, makes them into "communications platforms," and then suggests we need to make rules about them. Not very imaginative. I have lost faith in our ability to write about code in words, and I'm confident that any attempt at writing down network neutrality will be so qualified, gutted, eviscerated, and emptied that it will end up being worse than useless. Besides, I'm sure there are very good reasons to manage networks, and writing down the difference between management and incremental control of users' experiences is an impossible task.

The only way around this issue is to avoid it by encouraging the development of alternative online access methods, and being careful not to let the incumbents call them illegal. Let the dinosaurs huddle together in the snow, controlling and commoditizing to their hearts' content. We're made of better stuff. It should be no more illegal to have an open wireless network in your house than to practice the piano with the windows open. And having an open wireless network can lead to a community mesh network and a host of devices that open immediately to others, connecting us to the world.

If that's not possible, then the second best solution is structural separation, paying off the carriers for their stranded costs and moving to open utility platforms. BT seems to think that's a fine idea; why couldn't it work here?

Muni Wi-Fi is a form of bypass. So are other government-sponsored or assisted workarounds.

So are the private ones. If Om Malik and Business 2.0 are sniffing the right trail, that's what we'll get from Google. Here's what Om said on August 25, 2005, in "Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet":

What if Google wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user's precise location? The gatekeeper of the world's information could become one of the globe's biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?

First it would build a national broadband network--let's call it the GoogleNet--massive enough to rival even the country's biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of "dark", or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York's AboveNet. It's also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google's timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

One contact in a Position to Know tells me that Google's purpose isn't bypass, but advertising. That's their revenue model, and if you follow the money--as well as the company's development and acquisition vectors--you get to a place where highly targeted advertising pays for everything. Should this be a problem? There are damn few large companies taking the Net's side here. If Google gets to be a major carrier as well as the major search engine and advertising pump it is today, that sure as hell beats the alternatives. Especially when Google is fighting the incumbents on the battlefield we call Congress.

For example, there's an Internet regulation bill working its way through the House of Representatives right now as part of a broad effort to replace the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which pretty much everybody agrees is in woeful need of an upgrade. Naturally, lawmakers and the lobbyists who employ them want more laws, more regulation, more favoritism. So, Brett Glass points out, "like earlier versions, it subjects all ISPs and VoIP providers to intensive Federal regulation and requires them to register before providing service. It also preempts state and local control over rights of way".

Google isn't merely against bills like this, it's opposing them publicly. Vint Cerf, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist, sent an open letter this past Wednesday to the Energy and Commerce Committee, speaking out against this bill and others like it. The key paragraphs:

The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings--from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging--that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design.

My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need. Many people will have little or no choice among broadband operators for the foreseeable future, implying that such operators will have the power to exercise a great deal of control over any applications placed on the network.

As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old non- discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive. Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.

I am confident that we can build a broadband system that allows users to decide what websites they want to see and what applications they want to use--and that also guarantees high quality service and network security. That network model has and can continue to provide economic benefits to innovators and consumers--and to the broadband operators who will reap the rewards for providing access to such a valued network.

We appreciate the efforts in your current draft to create at least a starting point for net neutrality principles. Google looks forward to working with you and your staff to draft a bill that will maintain the revolutionary potential of the broadband Internet.

Significantly, Vint Cerf, often called "The father of the Net", is the prime author of TCP/IP, the core protocol suite that the Net itself employs.

Bills such as this one travel through a pro-market Congress on the strength of "deregulation" claims by carriers, which are made on television as well as in the halls of Congressional office buildings. As Lauren Weinstein reports:

the telephone companies' alliance has again been flooding the airwaves with "unleash the phone companies" advertising. These follow their usual line: We see happy consumers using futuristic communications devices and services and are told that our telecom laws are only slightly more recent than the invention of plumbing. Allow for true market-based competition without all of those inconvenient regulations, the commercials say, and it'll truly be a wonderful world indeed! And there's not a phone bill in sight!

Of course, the carriers are plainly anti-market and have been for the duration. Such is the nature of corporate species that have thrived exclusively in a highly controlled regulatory environment.

Regulatory habitats are by nature anti-market as well, regardless of the pro-market leanings of their top officials. This is why regulatory reform itself is inherently nutty. This point was made expertly last Wednesday by Susan Crawford:

I want to persuade us that all of this talk about convergence over the last few years is not true. Stepping away from interpretation of the 1996 Act itself, it seems to me that telephone services are fundamentally different from the internet, and the notion of carrying particular social policies over from the telephone world to the internet (without taking into account what the internet is) is already proving to be hopelessly wrongheaded, needlessly expensive, and shortsighted.

The question assumes that we need "an effective framework to govern the internet." There's a lot of law that already applies online, and I have not seen a demonstration that more new law is needed--and, in any event, it's not the FCC that is in the best position to do it. If we're going to depart from the central Section 230 notion that the online world is unfettered by special-purpose federal or state laws, that should be a conscious choice. Right now, it's all ad hoc, backwards looking, and unprincipled. And destructive. E911 and CALEA certainly fit this description, and I have a feeling that universal service will too when it erupts from the Commission.

We need a sustained national conversation about all this--maybe we'll end up with this same approach, but I'd like to think not. Why can't we be both more hopeful and emphatic--take the lead, around the world--about the approach to the internet that we want?...

What happened to our leadership on internet policy? When did we lose the ability to walk and slide back into the sea? We experimented and tugged and pulled and came up with the idea of linking machines together with a common language, making it possible for humans to interact in unprecedented ways. Now we're turning those machines back into the machines we thought we were escaping--telephones, cable systems, and televisions--using insiders' language so that we can hide what's going on from the general public. What happened?

Glad you asked, Susan. I have the answer.
Scenario III: Fight with Words and Not Just Deeds

All due credit to the EFF, Creative Commons and every other organization in the pro-Net alliance, but there isn't much hope of changing hearts and minds as long as we think and talk in the transport language of the telcos, cablecos and "content" producers. When we do that, we lose. Case in point: Eldred vs. Ashcroft. Larry Lessig and other good guys fought the good fight on Eldred and lost when the Supremes sided 7-2 with Ashcroft. In January, 2003, I suggested that one reason the good guys lost was, literally, linguistic:

I've been trying to collect my thoughts about the Eldred decision. At this point I think there are several contexts that need to be explored.

One is legal--constitutional, really. Larry and the lawbloggers (sounds like a good name for a band) are all over that one.

Another is political. The Sony Bono Act was a political creation in the first place, and the Supreme Court decision in its favor was a political victory for Hollywood (yes, print publishers had some interest in it, but the story plays as a Hollywood victory, complete with quotes from Jack Valenti and Hillary Rosen).

The third is metaphorical. I believe Hollywood won because they have successfully repositioned copyright as a property issue. In other words, they successfully urged the world to understand copyright in terms of property. Copyright = property may not be accurate in a strict legal sense, but it still makes common sense, even to the Supreme Court. Here's how Richard Bennett puts it:

The issue here isn't enumeration, or the ability of Congress to pass laws of national scope regarding copyright; the copyright power is clearly enumerated in the Constitution. The issue, at least for the conservative justices who sided with the majority, is more likely the protection of property rights. In order to argue against that, Lessig would have had to argue for a communal property right that was put at odds with the individual property right of the copyright holder, and even that would be thin skating at best. So the Supremes did the only possible thing with respect to property rights and the clearly enumerated power the Constitution gives Congress to protect copyright.

Watch the language. While the one side talks about licenses with verbs like copy, distribute, play, share and perform, the other side talks about rights with verbs like own, protect, safeguard, protect, secure, authorize, buy, sell, infringe, pirate, infringe, and steal.

This isn't just a battle of words. It's a battle of understandings. And understandings are framed by conceptual metaphors. We use them all the time without being the least bit aware of it. We talk about time in terms of money (save, waste, spend, gain, lose) and life in terms of travel (arrive, depart, speed up, slow down, get stuck), without realizing that we're speaking about one thing in terms of something quite different. As the cognitive linguists will tell you, this is not a bad thing. In fact, it's very much the way our minds work.

But if we want to change minds, we need to pay attention to exactly these kinds of details.

"The Commons" and "the public domain" might be legitimate concepts with deep and relevant histories, but they're too arcane to most of us. Eric Raymond has told me more than once that the Commons Thing kinda rubs him the wrong way. Communist and Commonist are just a little too close for comfort. Too social. Not private enough. He didn't say he was against it, but he did say it was a stretch. (Maybe he'll come in here and correct me or enlarge on his point.) For many other libertarians, however, the stretch goes too far. Same goes for conservatives who subscribe to the same metaphorical system in respect to property.

So the work we have cut out for us isn't just legal and political. It's conceptual. Until we find a way to win that one, we'll keep losing in Congress as well as the courts.

Helpful reading on a similar (and to some degree related) case: Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust, by George Lakoff.

Larry Lessig replied:

Doc has a brilliant and absolutely correct diagnosis at the American Open Technology Consortium website about how we lost in Eldred. Copyright is understood to be a form of simple property. The battle in Eldred thus sounded like a battle for and against property. On such a simple scale, it was clear how the majority of the Court would vote. Not because they are conservative, but because they are Americans. We have a (generally sensible) pro-property bias in this culture that makes it extremely hard for people to think critically about the most complicated form of property out there--what most call "intellectual property." To question property of any form makes you a communist. Yet this is precisely our problem: To make it clear that we are pro-copyright without being extremists either way.

So deep is this confusion that even a smart, and traditionally leftist social commentator like Edward Rothstein makes the same fundamentally mistake in a piece published Saturday. He describes the movement, of which I am part, as "countercultural," "radical," and anti-corporate. Now no doubt there are some for whom those terms are true descriptors. But I for one would be ecstatic if we could just have the same copyright law that existed under Richard Nixon.

Our problem is, as Doc rightly points out, that we have so far failed to make it clear to the world who the radicals in this debate are.

The radicals in Larry's proximal debate are copyright extremists of the Sonny Bono school, which favors extension of copyright to "forever less one day". In this debate the radicals are the carriers. We need to fight them, just as Larry and crew need to fight the copyright extremists: by re-framing the subject.

To start we acknowledge the necessity of the transport metaphor; but also its insufficiency.

Of course, at its base level the Net is a system of pipes and packets. But it's not only packets, or "content" or anything for that matter). Understanding the Net only in transport terms is like understanding civilization in terms of electrical service or human beings only in terms of atoms and molecules. We miss the larger context.

That context is best understood as a place. When we speak of the Net as a "place" or a "space" or a "world" or a "commons" or a "market" with "locations" and "addresses" and "sites" that we "build", we are framing the Net as a place.

Most significantly, the Net is a marketplace. In fact, the Net is the largest, most open, most free and most productive marketplace the world has ever known. The fact that it's not physical doesn't make it one bit less real. In fact, the virtuality of the Net is what makes it stretch to worldwide dimensions while remaining local to every desktop, every point-of-sale device, every ATM machine. It is in this world-wide marketplace that free people, free enterprise, free cultures and free societies are just beginning to flourish. It is here that democratic governance is finally connected, efficiently, to the governed.

It is on and not just through--prepositions are key here--the Net that governments will not only derive their just powers from the consent of the governed but benefit directly from citizen involvement as well.

As a place, the Net has always been independent of the carriage on which it relies, which is one reason it also encourages and rewards independence. The independence of the Net and its inhabitants is precisely what accounts for countless new businesses and improved old ones.

The architecture of the Net's world is End-to-End (See "End to End Arguments in System Design" by J.H. Saltzer, D.P. Reed and D.D. Clark). In "The Rise of the Stupid Network", which he wrote for the benefit of his employer while he was still at AT&T, David Isenberg says "The Internet breaks the telephone company model by passing control to the end user. It does this by taking the underlying network details out of the picture." In "World of Ends", David Weinberger and I added:

The Internet is Stupid.

The telephone system, which is not the Internet (at least not yet), is damn smart. It knows who's calling whom, where they're located, whether it's a voice or data call, how far the call reaches, how much the call costs, etc. And it provides services that only a phone network cares about: call waiting, caller ID, *69 and lots of other stuff that phone companies like to sell.

The Internet, on the other hand, is stupid. On purpose. Its designers made sure the biggest, most inclusive network of them all was dumb as a box of rocks.

The Internet doesn't know lots of things a smart network like the phone system knows: Identities, permissions, priorities, etc. The Internet only knows one thing: this bunch of bits needs to move from one end of the Net to another.

There are technical reasons why stupidity is a good design. Stupid is sturdy. If a router fails, packets route around it, meaning that the Net stays up. Thanks to its stupidity, the Net welcomes new devices and people, so it grows quickly and in all directions. It's also easy for architects to incorporate Net access into all kinds of smart devices--camcorders, telephones, sprinkler systems--that live at the Net's ends.

That's because the most important reason Stupid is Good has less to do with technology and everything to do with value...

Adding value to the Internet Lowers its Value.

Sounds screwy, but it's true. If you optimize a network for one type of application, you de-optimize it for others. For example, if you let the network give priority to voice or video data on the grounds that they need to arrive faster, you are telling other applications that they will have to wait. And as soon as you do that, you have turned the Net from something simple for everybody into something complicated for just one purpose. It isn't the Internet anymore.

All the Internet's value grows on its edges.

If the Internet were a smart network, its designers would have anticipated the importance of a good search engine and would have built searching into the network itself. But because its designers were smart, they made the Net too stupid for that. So searching is a service that can be built at one of the million ends of the Internet. Because people can offer any services they want from their end, search engines have competed, which means choice for users and astounding innovation.

Search engines are just an example. Because all the Internet does is throw bits from one end to another, innovators can build whatever they can imagine, counting on the Internet to move data for them. You don't have to get permission from the Internet's owner or systems administrator or the Vice President of Service Prioritization. You have an idea? Do it. And every time you do, the value of the Internet goes up.

The Internet has created a free market for innovation. That's the key to the Internet's value.

The term "world of ends" was inspired by Craig Burton's characterization of the Net's "stupid" end-to-end architecture as a three-dimensional zero. "In fact," he says, "there's no other way to visualize a place comprised of nothing but ends, all zero distance from each other, where all the intelligence is on the outside". He adds, "It's important to remember that zero is the value here. You can't get in the middle of this world and say 'This zero isn't valuable enough. I'm going to improve it.' That would be like jumping in the middle of the Earth and saying 'I'm going to improve on this gravity business'."

While the Net's nature is a world-wide place, the Web's nature is a world-wide publishing system. The Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist who wanted a simple way documents could be published and read, anywhere in the world, without restriction by physical location or underlying transport system. That's why it has hypertext protocols, "languages" and "formatting" standards. It's also why we "write", "author" and "mark up" "documents" called "pages" and "files" which we "post", "publish" or "put up" so others can "index", "catalog" and "browse" them.

To sum up, the Net has all these natures:

transport system (pipes)

place (or world)

publishing system

--and others as well. But those aren't at war with one another, and that's what matters most.

Right now #1 is at war with #2 and #3, and that war isn't happening only in the media and in congressional hearing rooms. It's happening in our own heads. When we talk about "delivering content to consumers through the Net", rather than "selling products to customers on the Net", we take sides with #1 against #2. We unconsciously agree that the Net is just a piping system. We literally devolve: our lungs turn to gills, our legs turn into flippers, and we waddle back into the sea--where we are eaten by sharks.

What I'm talking about here isn't "just semantics" or trivial in any other way. It's fundamental, especially to lawmaking and regulation.

For example, if we describe speech and publishing, that stuff the First Amendment protects as "content", then the rights granted to speech become subordinate to regulations governing carriage. Look into the metaphors used by the Supreme Court in its decision in favor of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, et. al., in that group's suit against Brand X. Internet Services, et. al.:

The Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, defines two categories of entities relevant here. "Information service" providers--those "offering"; a capability for [processing] information via telecommunications, 47 U.S.C. 153(20)--are subject to mandatory regulation by the Federal Communications Commission as common carriers under Title II of the Act. Conversely, telecommunications carriers--i.e., those "offering" telecommunications for a fee directly to the public "regardless of the facilities used," 153(46)--are not subject to mandatory Title II regulation. These two classifications originated in the late 1970's, as the Commission developed rules to regulate data-processing services offered over telephone wires. Regulated "telecommunications service" under the 1996 Act is the analog to "basic service" under the prior regime, the Computer II rules. Those rules defined such service as a "pure" or "transparent" transmission capability over a communications path enabling the consumer to transmit an ordinary-language message to another point without computer processing or storage of the information, such as via a telephone or a facsimile. Under the 1996 Act, "[i]nformation service" is the analog to "enhanced" service, defined by the Computer II rules as computer-processing applications that act on the subscriber's information, such as voice and data storage services, as well as "protocol conversion," i.e., the ability to communicate between networks that employ different data-transmission formats.

In the Declaratory Ruling under review, the Commission classified broadband cable modem service as an "information service" but not a "telecommunications service" under the 1996 Act, so that it is not subject to mandatory Title II common-carrier regulation. The Commission relied heavily on its Universal Service Report, which earlier classified "non-facilities-based" ISPs--those that do not own the transmission facilities they use to connect the end user to the Internet--solely as information-service providers. Because Internet access is a capability for manipulating and storing information, the Commission concluded, it was an "information service." However, the integrated nature of such access and the high-speed wire used to provide it led the Commission to conclude that cable companies providing it are not "telecommunications service" providers. Adopting the Universal Service Report's reasoning, the Commission held that cable companies offering broadband Internet access, like non-facilities-based ISPs, do not offer the end user telecommunications service, but merely use telecommunications to provide end users with cable modem service.

Disregard for now the opacity of the prose and even the complete absence of the place and publishing metaphors that define the Net and the Web. Just look at the time scale involved. There are a series of regulatory regimes here, beginning with the Telecommunications Act of 1934. Today we operate under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Reforms of that act are likely to remain law for a long time.

Meanwhile, we have Section 1464 (Broadcasting Obscene Language) in CHAPTER 71 - OBSCENITY in PART I - CRIMES of TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE of the United States Code, which forced the FCC to rationalize stomping all over the First Amendment. Look at the headings under Chapter 71, and you'll find that most of the sections (including 1464) begin with transportational verbs: Mailing, Importation, Broadcasting, Distribution, Transfer.

Thanks to the transport metaphor, the FCC can punish forms of speech it calls "obscene", "profane" or "indecent" and explain it in a document titled "content.html". The same victory of pipes over place accounts for this tortured entry in its Obscenity, Indecency & Profanity FAQ:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 326 of the Communications Act prohibit the FCC from censoring broadcasters. The FCC does not, therefore, monitor particular programs or particular performers, but rather enforces the prohibition on obscenity, indecency and profanity in response to complaints.

Thanks to the transport metaphor, even relatively pro-market and pro-Net regulators, such as former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, speak about "consumers" having "rights" to "access" and "attach" to "connections" about which they should have "choices". In fact, the whole case for "protecting consumers" from bad content and its sources is framed in terms that reify the Net as a system of pipes.

One reason transport trumps place is that business itself is largely, though not entirely, conceived in shipping terms. The "value chain" is a transportational notion. We speak of "loading" goods into "channels" for "distribution" to "end users" or "consumers". We even talk about "delivering" services.

On the other hand, we have understood markets as places since marketplaces were the only kinds of markets we had. The metaphors that come naturally to Wall Street are helpful here. When we speak of "bulls", "bears" and "invisible hands", we assume those beings operate in an place-like environment. When we say markets have feelings--"excitement", "fear", "anticipation", "reaction"--we assume those happen in an environment (that is, a place) as well. Even "Wall Street" is ontologically locational. It is a real place that serves, by what cognitive linguistics call metonymy, for the whole stock market, which we also conceive of as a place.

Experience counts. Humans are physical beings. All of us who use the Net experience it as a place. Prepositions are revealing. We go on the Net, not through it.

In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson write: ... even where there is no natural physical boundary... we impose boundaries--marking off territory so that it has an inside and a bounding surface... There are few human instincts more basic than territoriality.

We who know and understand the territorial nature of the Net need to appeal to the same territorial sense in those we hope to win over with our arguments.

Advocating and saving the Net is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers and regulators aren't screwing up the Net because they're "Friends of Bush" or "Friends of Hollywood" or liberals or conservatives. They're doing it because one way of framing the Net--as a transport system for content--is winning over another way of framing the Net--as a place where markets and business and culture and governance can all thrive. Otherwise helpful documents, including Ernest Partridge's "After the Internet" fail because they blame "Bush-friendly conservative corporations" and appeal only to one political constituency, in this case, progressives. Freedom, independence, the sovereignty of the individual, private rights and open frontiers are a few among many values shared by progressives and conservatives. All are better supported, in obvious ways, by the Net as a place rather than as a transport system.

This is especially true of the Net as a place where free and open markets thrive. This is the Net that we built, where we have sites and locations and domains.

It is also important to describe what the Net is and how it works from the standpoint of technology itself: specifically those that create and enlarge the Net and its services. So we're talking here not just about HTTP and HTML but also XML and RSS. These reify the Net as a place where people and organizations speak and publish and produce and govern and build businesses and perform services. These are made possible, we should make clear, by the end-to-end nature of the Net and by the even-endedness of every participant.

We should avoid getting trapped by arguments about peer-to-peer sharing that drop us into the mud-pit of Hollywood's "piracy" fears and residual disdain by conservative lawmakers (still the majority) for anything that smacks of Communism. Unfortunately, that means we should also avoid talking about the Net as a "commons" except with those who understand the concept.

We need to make clear that the Public Domain is the market's underlying geology--a place akin to the ownerless bulk of the Earth--rather than a public preserve in the midst of private holdings. This won't be easy, but it can be done.

We need to stress the fact that the primary "end" in the Net's end-to-end architecture is the individual. The Net's success is due far more to the freedoms enjoyed by individuals than to the advantages enjoyed by large companies whose existence predates the Net.

We need to remind policy makers that the Net's biggest success stories--Amazon, Google, eBay and Yahoo--are the stories of Bezos, Page, Brin, Omidyar, Yang and Filo.

We need to make clear that the Net is the best public place ever created for private enterprise, and that the success of the Net owes infinitely more to personal initiative than to the mesh of pipes in the ground beneath it.

We need to show how the Net has its own nature, and that this nature is too dynamic--too original, too wild and free, too self-creating and self-correcting--for new lawmaking to comprehend, much less control.

We need to stress how the pipe-centric view of the world is responsible for the crippled and asymmetrical "consumer" service the carriers call "broadband". By restricting upstream use of the Net and biasing service to downstream "content delivery", the carriers have effectively outlawed personal and small business enterprise on the Net. This is one area where the carriers have been persistently clueless and hostile to the Net since the beginning, and we need to call them on it. (Required reading: John Perry Barlow's Death From Above, written in March 1995.)

I could go on, but I'd rather leave that up to the rest of you.

These are ideas, of course. I present them forcefully because I believe we--the technical community--are being called to fight for a world we made and continue to make. And one which is under grave threat.

That threat appears in many forms, all of which are easy to blame and attack. But all those forms are expressions of a simple concept: that the Net is, above all, a system of pipes. Those pipes are in fact below, not above. They support a World of Ends, but they don't define it.

Unless we let them.

A few final words about deeds. Right now we face a number of deadlines on anti-Net legislation being lobbied through Congress by what David Berlind calls "Tellywood", with help from the carriers. He explains the situation expertly:

So, in November 2003, the FCC instated a rule that, as of July 1, 2005, required all television receivers to include the anti-piracy technology. But prior to that day of reckoning, saying the FCC didn't have the authority to make such a rule, a federal court struck the mandate down on May 6. But the ruling wasn't a complete victory because it also said that Congress could pass a law to the same effect. So then, Congress got into the act (literally and figuratively). In June 2005, on the heels of the federal court's decision, Tellywood's lobbies looked to revive the mandate by getting the Senate to sneak an amendment into a largely unrelated spending bill (Gee, deja vu. Certain Massachusetts' Congresspeople are looking to screw the OpenDocument Format with the same unrelated-bill-ammendment technique). But the "fair rights lobby" [sic] raised a stink and the Senate Appropriations Committee thankfully punted. Then, in September, 20 members of Congress who were clearly looking out for the fair use rights of the people they represent (not) called for a reinstatement of the broadcast flag mandate. Earlier this month however, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives remained unconvinced that such broadcast flag legislation wouldn't marginalize fair use rights.

As if it isn't bad enough that certain Congresspeople are looking to stifle fair use rights with broadcast flag related legislation, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are pushing two other fair-use rights limiting bills on Congress.

David goes on to talk about how the RIAA helped author the HD Radio Content Act of 2005, which would prevent you from recording anything off the digital signals slated to replace the analog ones still on radios today. He adds:

As if the HD Radio Content Protection Act of 2005 doesn't tighten the noose enough, there's also the Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005. A November 3, 2005-dated draft of the proposed legislation is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The idea behind this legislation, which has the backing of the MPAA, is to make it illegal for consumer device manufacturers not to plug the infamous analog hole (another hole in the leaky dam).

The list goes on. Read it. Then contact your Congresspeople. Tell them to keep the Net open and free and to vote against any legislation meant to protect any industry from "threats" they see coming from a new world they refuse to understand.

TFA (1, Redundant)

rangefinder (836739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050272)

Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes
By Doc Searls on Wed, 2005-11-16 02:00. Industry News
We're hearing tales of two scenarios--one pessimistic, one optimistic--for the future of the Net. If the paranoids are right, the Net's toast. If they're not, it will be because we fought to save it, perhaps in a new way we haven't talked about before. Davids, meet your Goliaths.

This is a long essay. There is, however, no limit to how long I could have made it. The subjects covered here are no less enormous than the Net and its future. Even optimists agree that the Net's future as a free and open environment for business and culture is facing many threats. We can't begin to cover them all or cover all the ways we can fight them. I believe, however, that there is one sure way to fight all of these threats at once, and without doing it the bad guys will win. That's what this essay is about.

Here's a brief outline of the article. If you want to go straight to the solution, skip to the third section:

        *

            Scenario I: The Carriers Win
        *

            Scenario II: The Public Workaround
        *

            Scenario III: Fight with Words and Not Just Deeds

Scenario I: The Carriers Win

Be afraid. Be very afraid. --Kevin Werbach.

Are you ready to see the Net privatized from the bottom to the top? Are you ready to see the Net's free and open marketplace sucked into a pit of pipes built and fitted by the phone and cable companies and run according to rules lobbied by the carrier and content industries?

Do you believe a free and open market should be "Your choice of walled garden" or "Your choice of silo"? That's what the big carrier and content companies believe. That's why they're getting ready to fence off the frontiers.

And we're not stopping it.

With the purchase and re-animation of AT&T's remains, the collection of former Baby Bells called SBC will become the largest communications company in the US--the new Ma Bell. Verizon, comprised of the old GTE plus MCI and the Baby Bells SBC didn't grab, is the new Pa Bell. That's one side of the battlefield, called The Regulatory Environment. Across the battlefield from Ma and Pa Bell are the cable and entertainment giants: Comcast, Cox, TimeWarner and so on. Covering the battle are the business and tech media, which love a good fight.

The problem is that all of these battling companies--plus the regulators--hate the Net.

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. The thing is, they're hostile to it, because they don't get it. Worse, they only get it in one very literal way. See, to the carriers and their regulators, the Net isn't a world, a frontier, a marketplace or a commons. To them, the Net is a collection of pipes. Their goal is to beat the other pipe-owners. To do that, they want to sell access and charge for traffic.

There's nothing wrong with being in the bandwidth business, of course. But some of these big boys want to go farther with it. They don't see themselves as a public utility selling a pure base-level service, such as water or electricity (which is what they are, by the way, in respect to the Net). They see themselves as a source of many additional value-adds, inside the pipes. They see opportunities to sell solutions to industries that rely on the Net--especially their natural partner, the content industry.

They see a problem with freeloaders. On the tall end of the power curve, those 'loaders are AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other large sources of the container cargo we call "content". Out on the long tail, the freeloaders are you and me. The big 'loaders have been getting a free ride for too long and are going to need to pay. The Information Highway isn't the freaking interstate. It's a system of private roads that needs to start charging tolls. As for the small 'loaders, it hardly matters that they're a boundless source of invention, innovation, vitality and new business. To the carriers, we're all still just "consumers". And we always will be.

"Piracy" is a bigger issue to the cargo sources than to the carriers. To the carriers, "fighting piracy" is a service offering as well as a lever on regulators to give carriers more control of the pipes. "You want us to help you fight piracy?", the transport companies say to the content companies. "Okay, let's deal." And everybody else's freedoms--to invent, to innovate, to do business, to take advantage of free markets and to make free culture--get dealt away.

The carriers have been lobbying Congress for control of the Net since Bush the Elder was in office. Once they get what they want, they'll put up the toll booths, the truck scales, the customs checkpoints--all in a fresh new regulatory environment that formalizes the container cargo business we call packet transport. This new environment will be built to benefit the carriers and nobody else. The "consumers"? Oh ya, sure: they'll benefit too, by having "access" to all the good things that carriers ship them from content providers. Is there anything else? No.

Crocodile grins began to grow on the faces of carriers as soon as it became clear that everything we call "media" eventually would flow through their pipes. All that stuff we used to call TV, radio, newspapers and magazines will just be "content" moving through the transport layer of the pipe system they own and control. Think it's a cool thing that TV channels are going away? So do the carriers. The future à lá carte business of media will depend on one medium alone: the Net. And the Net is going to be theirs.

The Net's genie, which granted all those e-commerce wishes over the past ten years, won't just get shoved back in the bottle. No, that genie will be piped and priced by the packet. The owners of those pipes have a duty to their stockholders to make the most of the privileged position they've been waiting to claim ever since they got blind-sided, back in the 80s and 90s. (For an excellent history of how the European PTTs got snookered by the Net and the Web, see Paul F. Kunz' Bringing the World Wide Web to America.) They have assets to leverage, dammit, and now they can.

Does it matter that countless markets flourish in the wide spaces opened by agreements and protocols that thrive at the grace of carriage? Or that those markets are threatened by new limits, protections and costs imposed at the pipe level?

No.

Thus, the Era of Net Facilitation will end. The choke points are in the pipes, the permission is coming from the lawmakers and regulators, and the choking will be done. No more free rides, folks. Time to pay. It's called creating scarcity and charging for it. The Information Age may be here, but the Industrial Age is hardly over. In fact, there is no sign it will ever end.

The carriers are going to lobby for the laws and regulations they need, and they're going to do the deals they need to do. The new system will be theirs, not ours. The NEA principle--Nobody owns it, Everybody can use it, Anybody can improve it--so familiar to the Free Software and Open Source communities will prove to be a temporary ideal, a geek conceit. Code is not Law. Culture is not Free. From the Big Boys' perspective, code and culture are stuff nobody cares about.

That's us: Nobody.

The new carrier-based Net will work in the same asymmetrical few-to-many, top-down pyramidal way made familiar by TV, radio, newspapers, books, magazines and other Industrial Age media now being sucked into Information Age pipes. Movement still will go from producers to consumers, just like it always did. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Literally.

The deals that matter will be done between tops of pyramids. Hey, it's easier to do business with the concentrated few than the dispersed many. The Long Tail can whip itself into a frenzy, but all the tech magazines and blogs in the world are no match for the tails and teeth of these old sharks. (Hey, Long Tailer, when's the last time you treated your erected representatives to private movie screenings, drafted their legislation, ghosted their committee reports, made a blockbuster movie or rolled fiber across oceans?)

Google and Yahoo and Amazon and eBay and e-commerce and free software and open source and blogging and podcasting and all the rest of that idealistic junk have had their decade in the sun. Hell, throw in Apple and Microsoft, too. Who cares? Them? Doesn't matter how big they are. They don't matter. They're late to the game.

We all know the content business got clobbered by this peer-to-peer crap. But the carriers took a bath by building out the Net's piped infrastructure. They sank $billions by the dozen into fiber and copper and routers and trunks, waiting for the day when they'd be in a position to control the new beast fleshed on the skeleton that they built.

That Day Has Come.

It came earlier this month, when the November 7, 2005, issue of BusinessWeek hit the Web's streets. In that issue are "Rewired and Ready for Combat" and "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope'", which features an interview with Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC. Here's the gist of it:

        How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG), MSN, Vonage, and others?

        How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

        The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

        What's your approach to regulation? Explain, for example, the difference between you and Verizon in how you are approaching regulatory approval for Telco TV [digital-TV service offered by telecoms].

        The cable companies have an agreement with the cities: They pay a percentage of their revenue for a franchise right to broadcast TV. We have a franchise in every city we operate in based on providing telephone service.

        Now, all of a sudden, without any additional payment, the cable companies are putting telephone communication down their pipes and we're putting TV signals. If you want us to get a franchise agreement for TV, then let's make the cable companies get a franchise for telephony.

        If cable can put telephone down their existing franchise I should be able to put TV down my franchise. It's kind of a "what's fair is fair" deal. I think it's just common sense.

        What if the regulators don't agree?

        Then there won't be any competition--there will be a cable-TV monopoly.

        I know you're a competitive person. Who are your biggest competitors?

        Our big competition in the future is with the cable companies. Verizon's going to be a player, and certainly I want to compete. And I want our shareowners to do better than anyone else.

If I were BusinessWeek, I'd ask:

What about the free and open marketplace that has grown on the Net itself? Do you have any interest in continuing to support that? Or in lobbying forms of deregulation that foster it? Or are you just in a holy war with the cable companies inside the same old regulatory environment you've known since forever?

I'd ask:

If you were to buy, say, Level 3, would you start to filter and restrict content at the transport level, to extract the profits you want, without regard for other market consequences? Would Cisco, builder of the great Firewall of China, help out?

I'd ask:

Which do you prefer: The regulatory environment where your business has adapted itself for more than a century, or a completely free and open marketplace like the rest of us enjoy sitting on top of your pipes?

Whiteacre's answers, of course, would be less relevant than the obvious vector of his company's intentions. For a summary of that, let's return to Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility:

        Of course, the truth of the matter is that the telcos have been moving rapidly through massive consolidation--and a range of other tactics--to create an environment where "competition" will only be a pale reflection of what we were originally promised, with only a few gigantic players in control of all telecom resources and policies. Like the robot cop in Terminator 2 that reformed from blown-apart mercurial blobs of metal, the "golden age" of telecom competition is already giving way to empire.

Don't blame BusinessWeek for not asking the important questions or for missing the Carriers vs. Net story. Biz pubs love to cover vendor sports. And there's certainly a big story here.

Great distraction, vendor sports. While we're busy watching phone and cable giants fight over a closed battlefield that ought to be open, we miss Net-hostile moves by other parties that result in other lost freedoms.

Take ICANN, for instance, where a new .com Registry Agreement allows Verisign to raise the rates for .com names by 7% annually, and to operate .com in perpetuity, and to "mak[e] commercial use of, or collect, traffic data regarding domain names or non-existent domain names", and to reap other rewards for what few other than Verisign would agree is a good job. Bret Faucett summarizes the darkest shadow across the noir scenario we've already described:

        The theme running through all of these is that ICANN and Verisign are treating the .COM registry as a private resource. It's not. The root servers and TLD servers are public resources. We should treat them like that.

Bret has one of the most eloquent voices in the wilderness of clues the Big Boys would rather avoid. So does Susan Crawford, who was just, perhaps miraculously, named to the ICANN board.

For Bret, Susan and the rest of the restless natives of this new world, what matters most is Saving the Net--keeping it a free and open marketplace for everybody--while also making sure that carriers of all kinds can compete and succeed while providing much of the infrastructure on which that marketplace resides. That means we need to understand the Net as more than a bunch of pipes and business on the Net as more than transporting and selling "content".

This isn't a trivial issue. It's a matter of life and death for the Net itself. How are we going to fight?

Read on.
Scenario II: The Public Workaround

The deathblow comes from the muni Wi-Fi efforts. It doesn't matter whether they are viable or not--all they need do is give local connectivity the moral high ground and represent a grass roots effort that the legislature not only can't ignore but can embrace. --Bob Frankston

In ancient telco lingo, "bypass" is anything that works around the phone system itself. Susan Crawford wisely encourages bypassing not only the system but the whole notion of fixing it with "Network Neutrality" agreements or legislation. In response to the questions, "What, if any, version of common carriage rules should govern Internet communications platforms? More specifically, can some concept of Network Neutrality be defined and enforced proactively in the form of prescriptive regulations?", she answers,

        I think this is the wrong question. It assumes the limited world of online access providers we've got, makes them into "communications platforms," and then suggests we need to make rules about them. Not very imaginative. I have lost faith in our ability to write about code in words, and I'm confident that any attempt at writing down network neutrality will be so qualified, gutted, eviscerated, and emptied that it will end up being worse than useless. Besides, I'm sure there are very good reasons to manage networks, and writing down the difference between management and incremental control of users' experiences is an impossible task.

        The only way around this issue is to avoid it by encouraging the development of alternative online access methods, and being careful not to let the incumbents call them illegal. Let the dinosaurs huddle together in the snow, controlling and commoditizing to their hearts' content. We're made of better stuff. It should be no more illegal to have an open wireless network in your house than to practice the piano with the windows open. And having an open wireless network can lead to a community mesh network and a host of devices that open immediately to others, connecting us to the world.

        If that's not possible, then the second best solution is structural separation, paying off the carriers for their stranded costs and moving to open utility platforms. BT seems to think that's a fine idea; why couldn't it work here?

Muni Wi-Fi is a form of bypass. So are other government-sponsored or assisted workarounds.

So are the private ones. If Om Malik and Business 2.0 are sniffing the right trail, that's what we'll get from Google. Here's what Om said on August 25, 2005, in "Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet":

        What if Google wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user's precise location? The gatekeeper of the world's information could become one of the globe's biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?

        First it would build a national broadband network--let's call it the GoogleNet--massive enough to rival even the country's biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of "dark", or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York's AboveNet. It's also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google's timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

One contact in a Position to Know tells me that Google's purpose isn't bypass, but advertising. That's their revenue model, and if you follow the money--as well as the company's development and acquisition vectors--you get to a place where highly targeted advertising pays for everything. Should this be a problem? There are damn few large companies taking the Net's side here. If Google gets to be a major carrier as well as the major search engine and advertising pump it is today, that sure as hell beats the alternatives. Especially when Google is fighting the incumbents on the battlefield we call Congress.

For example, there's an Internet regulation bill working its way through the House of Representatives right now as part of a broad effort to replace the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which pretty much everybody agrees is in woeful need of an upgrade. Naturally, lawmakers and the lobbyists who employ them want more laws, more regulation, more favoritism. So, Brett Glass points out, "like earlier versions, it subjects all ISPs and VoIP providers to intensive Federal regulation and requires them to register before providing service. It also preempts state and local control over rights of way".

Google isn't merely against bills like this, it's opposing them publicly. Vint Cerf, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist, sent an open letter this past Wednesday to the Energy and Commerce Committee, speaking out against this bill and others like it. The key paragraphs:

        The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings--from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging--that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design.

        My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need. Many people will have little or no choice among broadband operators for the foreseeable future, implying that such operators will have the power to exercise a great deal of control over any applications placed on the network.

        As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old non- discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive. Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.

        I am confident that we can build a broadband system that allows users to decide what websites they want to see and what applications they want to use--and that also guarantees high quality service and network security. That network model has and can continue to provide economic benefits to innovators and consumers--and to the broadband operators who will reap the rewards for providing access to such a valued network.

        We appreciate the efforts in your current draft to create at least a starting point for net neutrality principles. Google looks forward to working with you and your staff to draft a bill that will maintain the revolutionary potential of the broadband Internet.

Significantly, Vint Cerf, often called "The father of the Net", is the prime author of TCP/IP, the core protocol suite that the Net itself employs.

Bills such as this one travel through a pro-market Congress on the strength of "deregulation" claims by carriers, which are made on television as well as in the halls of Congressional office buildings. As Lauren Weinstein reports:

        the telephone companies' alliance has again been flooding the airwaves with "unleash the phone companies" advertising. These follow their usual line: We see happy consumers using futuristic communications devices and services and are told that our telecom laws are only slightly more recent than the invention of plumbing. Allow for true market-based competition without all of those inconvenient regulations, the commercials say, and it'll truly be a wonderful world indeed! And there's not a phone bill in sight!

Of course, the carriers are plainly anti-market and have been for the duration. Such is the nature of corporate species that have thrived exclusively in a highly controlled regulatory environment.

Regulatory habitats are by nature anti-market as well, regardless of the pro-market leanings of their top officials. This is why regulatory reform itself is inherently nutty. This point was made expertly last Wednesday by Susan Crawford:

        I want to persuade us that all of this talk about convergence over the last few years is not true. Stepping away from interpretation of the 1996 Act itself, it seems to me that telephone services are fundamentally different from the internet, and the notion of carrying particular social policies over from the telephone world to the internet (without taking into account what the internet is) is already proving to be hopelessly wrongheaded, needlessly expensive, and shortsighted.

        The question assumes that we need "an effective framework to govern the internet." There's a lot of law that already applies online, and I have not seen a demonstration that more new law is needed--and, in any event, it's not the FCC that is in the best position to do it. If we're going to depart from the central Section 230 notion that the online world is unfettered by special-purpose federal or state laws, that should be a conscious choice. Right now, it's all ad hoc, backwards looking, and unprincipled. And destructive. E911 and CALEA certainly fit this description, and I have a feeling that universal service will too when it erupts from the Commission.

        We need a sustained national conversation about all this--maybe we'll end up with this same approach, but I'd like to think not. Why can't we be both more hopeful and emphatic--take the lead, around the world--about the approach to the internet that we want?...

        What happened to our leadership on internet policy? When did we lose the ability to walk and slide back into the sea? We experimented and tugged and pulled and came up with the idea of linking machines together with a common language, making it possible for humans to interact in unprecedented ways. Now we're turning those machines back into the machines we thought we were escaping--telephones, cable systems, and televisions--using insiders' language so that we can hide what's going on from the general public. What happened?

Glad you asked, Susan. I have the answer.
Scenario III: Fight with Words and Not Just Deeds

All due credit to the EFF, Creative Commons and every other organization in the pro-Net alliance, but there isn't much hope of changing hearts and minds as long as we think and talk in the transport language of the telcos, cablecos and "content" producers. When we do that, we lose. Case in point: Eldred vs. Ashcroft. Larry Lessig and other good guys fought the good fight on Eldred and lost when the Supremes sided 7-2 with Ashcroft. In January, 2003, I suggested that one reason the good guys lost was, literally, linguistic:

        I've been trying to collect my thoughts about the Eldred decision. At this point I think there are several contexts that need to be explored.

        One is legal--constitutional, really. Larry and the lawbloggers (sounds like a good name for a band) are all over that one.

        Another is political. The Sony Bono Act was a political creation in the first place, and the Supreme Court decision in its favor was a political victory for Hollywood (yes, print publishers had some interest in it, but the story plays as a Hollywood victory, complete with quotes from Jack Valenti and Hillary Rosen).

        The third is metaphorical. I believe Hollywood won because they have successfully repositioned copyright as a property issue. In other words, they successfully urged the world to understand copyright in terms of property. Copyright = property may not be accurate in a strict legal sense, but it still makes common sense, even to the Supreme Court. Here's how Richard Bennett puts it:

        The issue here isn't enumeration, or the ability of Congress to pass laws of national scope regarding copyright; the copyright power is clearly enumerated in the Constitution. The issue, at least for the conservative justices who sided with the majority, is more likely the protection of property rights. In order to argue against that, Lessig would have had to argue for a communal property right that was put at odds with the individual property right of the copyright holder, and even that would be thin skating at best. So the Supremes did the only possible thing with respect to property rights and the clearly enumerated power the Constitution gives Congress to protect copyright.

        Watch the language. While the one side talks about licenses with verbs like copy, distribute, play, share and perform, the other side talks about rights with verbs like own, protect, safeguard, protect, secure, authorize, buy, sell, infringe, pirate, infringe, and steal.

        This isn't just a battle of words. It's a battle of understandings. And understandings are framed by conceptual metaphors. We use them all the time without being the least bit aware of it. We talk about time in terms of money (save, waste, spend, gain, lose) and life in terms of travel (arrive, depart, speed up, slow down, get stuck), without realizing that we're speaking about one thing in terms of something quite different. As the cognitive linguists will tell you, this is not a bad thing. In fact, it's very much the way our minds work.

        But if we want to change minds, we need to pay attention to exactly these kinds of details.

        "The Commons" and "the public domain" might be legitimate concepts with deep and relevant histories, but they're too arcane to most of us. Eric Raymond has told me more than once that the Commons Thing kinda rubs him the wrong way. Communist and Commonist are just a little too close for comfort. Too social. Not private enough. He didn't say he was against it, but he did say it was a stretch. (Maybe he'll come in here and correct me or enlarge on his point.) For many other libertarians, however, the stretch goes too far. Same goes for conservatives who subscribe to the same metaphorical system in respect to property.

        So the work we have cut out for us isn't just legal and political. It's conceptual. Until we find a way to win that one, we'll keep losing in Congress as well as the courts.

        Helpful reading on a similar (and to some degree related) case: Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust, by George Lakoff.

Larry Lessig replied:

        Doc has a brilliant and absolutely correct diagnosis at the American Open Technology Consortium website about how we lost in Eldred. Copyright is understood to be a form of simple property. The battle in Eldred thus sounded like a battle for and against property. On such a simple scale, it was clear how the majority of the Court would vote. Not because they are conservative, but because they are Americans. We have a (generally sensible) pro-property bias in this culture that makes it extremely hard for people to think critically about the most complicated form of property out there--what most call "intellectual property." To question property of any form makes you a communist. Yet this is precisely our problem: To make it clear that we are pro-copyright without being extremists either way.

        So deep is this confusion that even a smart, and traditionally leftist social commentator like Edward Rothstein makes the same fundamentally mistake in a piece published Saturday. He describes the movement, of which I am part, as "countercultural," "radical," and anti-corporate. Now no doubt there are some for whom those terms are true descriptors. But I for one would be ecstatic if we could just have the same copyright law that existed under Richard Nixon.

        Our problem is, as Doc rightly points out, that we have so far failed to make it clear to the world who the radicals in this debate are.

The radicals in Larry's proximal debate are copyright extremists of the Sonny Bono school, which favors extension of copyright to "forever less one day". In this debate the radicals are the carriers. We need to fight them, just as Larry and crew need to fight the copyright extremists: by re-framing the subject.

To start we acknowledge the necessity of the transport metaphor; but also its insufficiency.

Of course, at its base level the Net is a system of pipes and packets. But it's not only packets, or "content" or anything for that matter). Understanding the Net only in transport terms is like understanding civilization in terms of electrical service or human beings only in terms of atoms and molecules. We miss the larger context.

That context is best understood as a place. When we speak of the Net as a "place" or a "space" or a "world" or a "commons" or a "market" with "locations" and "addresses" and "sites" that we "build", we are framing the Net as a place.

Most significantly, the Net is a marketplace. In fact, the Net is the largest, most open, most free and most productive marketplace the world has ever known. The fact that it's not physical doesn't make it one bit less real. In fact, the virtuality of the Net is what makes it stretch to worldwide dimensions while remaining local to every desktop, every point-of-sale device, every ATM machine. It is in this world-wide marketplace that free people, free enterprise, free cultures and free societies are just beginning to flourish. It is here that democratic governance is finally connected, efficiently, to the governed.

It is on and not just through--prepositions are key here--the Net that governments will not only derive their just powers from the consent of the governed but benefit directly from citizen involvement as well.

As a place, the Net has always been independent of the carriage on which it relies, which is one reason it also encourages and rewards independence. The independence of the Net and its inhabitants is precisely what accounts for countless new businesses and improved old ones.

The architecture of the Net's world is End-to-End (See "End to End Arguments in System Design" by J.H. Saltzer, D.P. Reed and D.D. Clark). In "The Rise of the Stupid Network", which he wrote for the benefit of his employer while he was still at AT&T, David Isenberg says "The Internet breaks the telephone company model by passing control to the end user. It does this by taking the underlying network details out of the picture." In "World of Ends", David Weinberger and I added:

        The Internet is Stupid.

        The telephone system, which is not the Internet (at least not yet), is damn smart. It knows who's calling whom, where they're located, whether it's a voice or data call, how far the call reaches, how much the call costs, etc. And it provides services that only a phone network cares about: call waiting, caller ID, *69 and lots of other stuff that phone companies like to sell.

        The Internet, on the other hand, is stupid. On purpose. Its designers made sure the biggest, most inclusive network of them all was dumb as a box of rocks.

        The Internet doesn't know lots of things a smart network like the phone system knows: Identities, permissions, priorities, etc. The Internet only knows one thing: this bunch of bits needs to move from one end of the Net to another.

        There are technical reasons why stupidity is a good design. Stupid is sturdy. If a router fails, packets route around it, meaning that the Net stays up. Thanks to its stupidity, the Net welcomes new devices and people, so it grows quickly and in all directions. It's also easy for architects to incorporate Net access into all kinds of smart devices--camcorders, telephones, sprinkler systems--that live at the Net's ends.

        That's because the most important reason Stupid is Good has less to do with technology and everything to do with value...

        Adding value to the Internet Lowers its Value.

        Sounds screwy, but it's true. If you optimize a network for one type of application, you de-optimize it for others. For example, if you let the network give priority to voice or video data on the grounds that they need to arrive faster, you are telling other applications that they will have to wait. And as soon as you do that, you have turned the Net from something simple for everybody into something complicated for just one purpose. It isn't the Internet anymore.

        All the Internet's value grows on its edges.

        If the Internet were a smart network, its designers would have anticipated the importance of a good search engine and would have built searching into the network itself. But because its designers were smart, they made the Net too stupid for that. So searching is a service that can be built at one of the million ends of the Internet. Because people can offer any services they want from their end, search engines have competed, which means choice for users and astounding innovation.

        Search engines are just an example. Because all the Internet does is throw bits from one end to another, innovators can build whatever they can imagine, counting on the Internet to move data for them. You don't have to get permission from the Internet's owner or systems administrator or the Vice President of Service Prioritization. You have an idea? Do it. And every time you do, the value of the Internet goes up.

        The Internet has created a free market for innovation. That's the key to the Internet's value.

The term "world of ends" was inspired by Craig Burton's characterization of the Net's "stupid" end-to-end architecture as a three-dimensional zero. "In fact," he says, "there's no other way to visualize a place comprised of nothing but ends, all zero distance from each other, where all the intelligence is on the outside". He adds, "It's important to remember that zero is the value here. You can't get in the middle of this world and say 'This zero isn't valuable enough. I'm going to improve it.' That would be like jumping in the middle of the Earth and saying 'I'm going to improve on this gravity business'."

While the Net's nature is a world-wide place, the Web's nature is a world-wide publishing system. The Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist who wanted a simple way documents could be published and read, anywhere in the world, without restriction by physical location or underlying transport system. That's why it has hypertext protocols, "languages" and "formatting" standards. It's also why we "write", "author" and "mark up" "documents" called "pages" and "files" which we "post", "publish" or "put up" so others can "index", "catalog" and "browse" them.

To sum up, the Net has all these natures:

      1.

            transport system (pipes)
      2.

            place (or world)
      3.

            publishing system

--and others as well. But those aren't at war with one another, and that's what matters most.

Right now #1 is at war with #2 and #3, and that war isn't happening only in the media and in congressional hearing rooms. It's happening in our own heads. When we talk about "delivering content to consumers through the Net", rather than "selling products to customers on the Net", we take sides with #1 against #2. We unconsciously agree that the Net is just a piping system. We literally devolve: our lungs turn to gills, our legs turn into flippers, and we waddle back into the sea--where we are eaten by sharks.

What I'm talking about here isn't "just semantics" or trivial in any other way. It's fundamental, especially to lawmaking and regulation.

For example, if we describe speech and publishing, that stuff the First Amendment protects as "content", then the rights granted to speech become subordinate to regulations governing carriage. Look into the metaphors used by the Supreme Court in its decision in favor of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, et. al., in that group's suit against Brand X. Internet Services, et. al.:

        The Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, defines two categories of entities relevant here. "Information service" providers--those "offering"; a capability for [processing] information via telecommunications, 47 U.S.C. 153(20)--are subject to mandatory regulation by the Federal Communications Commission as common carriers under Title II of the Act. Conversely, telecommunications carriers--i.e., those "offering" telecommunications for a fee directly to the public "regardless of the facilities used," 153(46)--are not subject to mandatory Title II regulation. These two classifications originated in the late 1970's, as the Commission developed rules to regulate data-processing services offered over telephone wires. Regulated "telecommunications service" under the 1996 Act is the analog to "basic service" under the prior regime, the Computer II rules. Those rules defined such service as a "pure" or "transparent" transmission capability over a communications path enabling the consumer to transmit an ordinary-language message to another point without computer processing or storage of the information, such as via a telephone or a facsimile. Under the 1996 Act, "[i]nformation service" is the analog to "enhanced" service, defined by the Computer II rules as computer-processing applications that act on the subscriber's information, such as voice and data storage services, as well as "protocol conversion," i.e., the ability to communicate between networks that employ different data-transmission formats.

        In the Declaratory Ruling under review, the Commission classified broadband cable modem service as an "information service" but not a "telecommunications service" under the 1996 Act, so that it is not subject to mandatory Title II common-carrier regulation. The Commission relied heavily on its Universal Service Report, which earlier classified "non-facilities-based" ISPs--those that do not own the transmission facilities they use to connect the end user to the Internet--solely as information-service providers. Because Internet access is a capability for manipulating and storing information, the Commission concluded, it was an "information service." However, the integrated nature of such access and the high-speed wire used to provide it led the Commission to conclude that cable companies providing it are not "telecommunications service" providers. Adopting the Universal Service Report's reasoning, the Commission held that cable companies offering broadband Internet access, like non-facilities-based ISPs, do not offer the end user telecommunications service, but merely use telecommunications to provide end users with cable modem service.

Disregard for now the opacity of the prose and even the complete absence of the place and publishing metaphors that define the Net and the Web. Just look at the time scale involved. There are a series of regulatory regimes here, beginning with the Telecommunications Act of 1934. Today we operate under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Reforms of that act are likely to remain law for a long time.

Meanwhile, we have Section 1464 (Broadcasting Obscene Language) in CHAPTER 71 - OBSCENITY in PART I - CRIMES of TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE of the United States Code, which forced the FCC to rationalize stomping all over the First Amendment. Look at the headings under Chapter 71, and you'll find that most of the sections (including 1464) begin with transportational verbs: Mailing, Importation, Broadcasting, Distribution, Transfer.

Thanks to the transport metaphor, the FCC can punish forms of speech it calls "obscene", "profane" or "indecent" and explain it in a document titled "content.html". The same victory of pipes over place accounts for this tortured entry in its Obscenity, Indecency & Profanity FAQ:

        The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 326 of the Communications Act prohibit the FCC from censoring broadcasters. The FCC does not, therefore, monitor particular programs or particular performers, but rather enforces the prohibition on obscenity, indecency and profanity in response to complaints.

Thanks to the transport metaphor, even relatively pro-market and pro-Net regulators, such as former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, speak about "consumers" having "rights" to "access" and "attach" to "connections" about which they should have "choices". In fact, the whole case for "protecting consumers" from bad content and its sources is framed in terms that reify the Net as a system of pipes.

One reason transport trumps place is that business itself is largely, though not entirely, conceived in shipping terms. The "value chain" is a transportational notion. We speak of "loading" goods into "channels" for "distribution" to "end users" or "consumers". We even talk about "delivering" services.

On the other hand, we have understood markets as places since marketplaces were the only kinds of markets we had. The metaphors that come naturally to Wall Street are helpful here. When we speak of "bulls", "bears" and "invisible hands", we assume those beings operate in an place-like environment. When we say markets have feelings--"excitement", "fear", "anticipation", "reaction"--we assume those happen in an environment (that is, a place) as well. Even "Wall Street" is ontologically locational. It is a real place that serves, by what cognitive linguistics call metonymy, for the whole stock market, which we also conceive of as a place.

Experience counts. Humans are physical beings. All of us who use the Net experience it as a place. Prepositions are revealing. We go on the Net, not through it.

In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson write: ... even where there is no natural physical boundary... we impose boundaries--marking off territory so that it has an inside and a bounding surface... There are few human instincts more basic than territoriality.

We who know and understand the territorial nature of the Net need to appeal to the same territorial sense in those we hope to win over with our arguments.

Advocating and saving the Net is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers and regulators aren't screwing up the Net because they're "Friends of Bush" or "Friends of Hollywood" or liberals or conservatives. They're doing it because one way of framing the Net--as a transport system for content--is winning over another way of framing the Net--as a place where markets and business and culture and governance can all thrive. Otherwise helpful documents, including Ernest Partridge's "After the Internet" fail because they blame "Bush-friendly conservative corporations" and appeal only to one political constituency, in this case, progressives. Freedom, independence, the sovereignty of the individual, private rights and open frontiers are a few among many values shared by progressives and conservatives. All are better supported, in obvious ways, by the Net as a place rather than as a transport system.

This is especially true of the Net as a place where free and open markets thrive. This is the Net that we built, where we have sites and locations and domains.

It is also important to describe what the Net is and how it works from the standpoint of technology itself: specifically those that create and enlarge the Net and its services. So we're talking here not just about HTTP and HTML but also XML and RSS. These reify the Net as a place where people and organizations speak and publish and produce and govern and build businesses and perform services. These are made possible, we should make clear, by the end-to-end nature of the Net and by the even-endedness of every participant.

We should avoid getting trapped by arguments about peer-to-peer sharing that drop us into the mud-pit of Hollywood's "piracy" fears and residual disdain by conservative lawmakers (still the majority) for anything that smacks of Communism. Unfortunately, that means we should also avoid talking about the Net as a "commons" except with those who understand the concept.

We need to make clear that the Public Domain is the market's underlying geology--a place akin to the ownerless bulk of the Earth--rather than a public preserve in the midst of private holdings. This won't be easy, but it can be done.

We need to stress the fact that the primary "end" in the Net's end-to-end architecture is the individual. The Net's success is due far more to the freedoms enjoyed by individuals than to the advantages enjoyed by large companies whose existence predates the Net.

We need to remind policy makers that the Net's biggest success stories--Amazon, Google, eBay and Yahoo--are the stories of Bezos, Page, Brin, Omidyar, Yang and Filo.

We need to make clear that the Net is the best public place ever created for private enterprise, and that the success of the Net owes infinitely more to personal initiative than to the mesh of pipes in the ground beneath it.

We need to show how the Net has its own nature, and that this nature is too dynamic--too original, too wild and free, too self-creating and self-correcting--for new lawmaking to comprehend, much less control.

We need to stress how the pipe-centric view of the world is responsible for the crippled and asymmetrical "consumer" service the carriers call "broadband". By restricting upstream use of the Net and biasing service to downstream "content delivery", the carriers have effectively outlawed personal and small business enterprise on the Net. This is one area where the carriers have been persistently clueless and hostile to the Net since the beginning, and we need to call them on it. (Required reading: John Perry Barlow's Death From Above, written in March 1995.)

I could go on, but I'd rather leave that up to the rest of you.

These are ideas, of course. I present them forcefully because I believe we--the technical community--are being called to fight for a world we made and continue to make. And one which is under grave threat.

That threat appears in many forms, all of which are easy to blame and attack. But all those forms are expressions of a simple concept: that the Net is, above all, a system of pipes. Those pipes are in fact below, not above. They support a World of Ends, but they don't define it.

Unless we let them.

A few final words about deeds. Right now we face a number of deadlines on anti-Net legislation being lobbied through Congress by what David Berlind calls "Tellywood", with help from the carriers. He explains the situation expertly:

        So, in November 2003, the FCC instated a rule that, as of July 1, 2005, required all television receivers to include the anti-piracy technology. But prior to that day of reckoning, saying the FCC didn't have the authority to make such a rule, a federal court struck the mandate down on May 6. But the ruling wasn't a complete victory because it also said that Congress could pass a law to the same effect. So then, Congress got into the act (literally and figuratively). In June 2005, on the heels of the federal court's decision, Tellywood's lobbies looked to revive the mandate by getting the Senate to sneak an amendment into a largely unrelated spending bill (Gee, deja vu. Certain Massachusetts' Congresspeople are looking to screw the OpenDocument Format with the same unrelated-bill-ammendment technique). But the "fair rights lobby" [sic] raised a stink and the Senate Appropriations Committee thankfully punted. Then, in September, 20 members of Congress who were clearly looking out for the fair use rights of the people they represent (not) called for a reinstatement of the broadcast flag mandate. Earlier this month however, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives remained unconvinced that such broadcast flag legislation wouldn't marginalize fair use rights.

        As if it isn't bad enough that certain Congresspeople are looking to stifle fair use rights with broadcast flag related legislation, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are pushing two other fair-use rights limiting bills on Congress.

David goes on to talk about how the RIAA helped author the HD Radio Content Act of 2005, which would prevent you from recording anything off the digital signals slated to replace the analog ones still on radios today. He adds:

        As if the HD Radio Content Protection Act of 2005 doesn't tighten the noose enough, there's also the Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005. A November 3, 2005-dated draft of the proposed legislation is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The idea behind this legislation, which has the backing of the MPAA, is to make it illegal for consumer device manufacturers not to plug the infamous analog hole (another hole in the leaky dam).

The list goes on. Read it. Then contact your Congresspeople. Tell them to keep the Net open and free and to vote against any legislation meant to protect any industry from "threats" they see coming from a new world they refuse to understand.

And, as the end of the year approaches, be sure to send your tax-deductible contributions to the EFF, Creative Commons and other organizations working with you to save the Net.

City, Where Are You? (2, Interesting)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050364)

There's a book about this.

It's called City Come a Walkin. [communitywiki.org] It was published in 1980. William Gibson had some nice things to say about it. [darkecho.com]

The problem, in the book, is the problem we're seeing here. Some rich club mob wants to take over the Internet. They want to control the communications system, and they want to be the gatekeepers of what all will go over the wires. And they're using it to leech off of, and eventually control, society.

Cities have a way of becoming self-aware. In the book, we meet San Fransisco: City. And we meet Sacramento, briefly. (She looks like a prostitute, apparently.) Chicago's also got a soul- in a living man. New York. Phoenix. The major cities- They start to take on a life of their own.

And they fight as hard as they can against the network controllers. But... "When the city comes a walkin' we'll all be obsolete."

I don't want to spoil it. :) Go read it yourself.

Demonizing CEO Whiteacre? (4, Interesting)

crucini (98210) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050372)

This article is long; I read up to the quote from Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC. Whiteacre said obvious and sensible things:
  1. Google, Yahoo, etc. have to pay for transport. That money goes to the pipe owners.
  2. If a cable TV company can offer phone services without paying the city a franchise fee, AT&T should be able to offer TV service without paying the city a franchise fee.

Somehow, Searls extracted some hideous meaning from these comments. He wants to ask Whiteacre a bunch of deep questions about the Net and freedom. I don't think Whiteacre could answer any of them; nor should he.

Re:Demonizing CEO Whiteacre? (4, Insightful)

eric76 (679787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050496)

This article is long; I read up to the quote from Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC. Whiteacre said obvious and sensible things:

We'll see about that.

Google, Yahoo, etc. have to pay for transport. That money goes to the pipe owners.

They pay for transport to their local provider. That it isn't SBC does not matter.

What SBC seems to want to do is to require everyone to be their customer in order to carry their traffic on SBC's network.

Look at it as if it were telephone traffic. In that case, it is as if they would not complete any telephone calls unless the calling party and the called party were both customers of theirs.

Or, more accurately, they want to charge long distance tolls. I guess for your $30 per month, you will be able to connect to your local town without paying additional fees. If you want to connect to the next town, you're gong to have to pay more.

If a cable TV company can offer phone services without paying the city a franchise fee, AT&T should be able to offer TV service without paying the city a franchise fee.

I never understood the rationale for franchise fees other than just another way to stick it to the public.

Re:Demonizing CEO Whiteacre? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050563)

1. Google, Yahoo!, M$FT, et al. have enormous bandwidth bills. The obvious implication Mr. Whiteacre is making is that some of the data that goes from these content providers goes over his network. He owns "the last mile" to millions of the consumers of that content. He would very much like all those dot-commies to pay him for access to his consumers. You see, this fractures the 'net. Nevermind that things work fine today, that everyone is paying their bills, that reciprocal routing agreements make the Internet something you get onto rather than something you go through.

2. The government decided that TV broadcasting would require a franchise fee. Cable companies pay this fee. There is no franchise fee for providing phone service. You see, they're different freaking services. His argument is circular.

Your post has highlighted Doc's major point. Until we start talking about these issues in ways that make sense to the average Joe, a liberated and egalitarian Internet is doomed.

Full text of a letter received by Register.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050387)

Posted anonymously, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
15 March 2004

Register.com
575 8th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Dear Register.com:

        Before I ask my question, allow me to present some background information which I hope will lend some human significance to the issue. We recently bought our son his first computer. My wife and I had been contemplating for some time whether buying our son a computer was the right thing to do, as we were uneasy about potentially exposing our then innocent 11 year old boy to the moral cesspool that is the larger part of the internet. Up to this point we had been very careful to raise our son in a good moral environment, and we reasoned that letting all that careful effort be put to nothing by some machine was well worth avoiding. After some careful reflection and prayer, I decided that we would go ahead and buy him the computer. After all, I thought, there are lots of dangers in the real world, yet we allow our son to go to the movies and talk to his friends - all of this being supervised by either myself or my wife, of course. What difference would it make whether he was out in the real world or in cyberspace? If anything, we figured that it would actually be easier to supervise our son's internet usage compared to all the laborious manual supervision we had to go through to protect him from dangers in the real world.

        When our son's computer arrived, we set it up in the family den in order to keep an eye on what he was doing. For additional measure we also installed the BSafe interent filter for Christians, which I had used successfully for some time to protect myself from my own computer at work. Things went rather uneventfully for a month or two, and our son seemed to be making good use of his allowed internet time by studying online versions of the Bible and playing some harmless Bible-related games, all of which I came to encourage and even take part in. In fact, this online studying helped our son so much that he soon began quoting verses and making biblical insights that even a self-declared theologian like myself had been unaware of! I was so proud of my son, and relieved that our fears about the internet had been unfounded. I decided to increase his alloted internet time, eventually allowing him to use the computer unsupervised. I fully trusted my son, and the internet, by now, so why limit him?

        Things went smoothly for a while, but after a month or so I noticed some increasingly disturbing changes in my son's attitude and appearance. He became reclusive and moody, and when I asked him what was wrong he would reply with a sullen, "Nothing, Dad." He refused to have his hair cut, and began combing it up each morning in a way which can only be described as perverse. Then one day I was in the tool shed making some signs when I noticed my rubber-handled hammer had gone missing. I remembered seeing my son with it a couple of days ago, so I went to him and asked about it. He coughed under his breath and said that he hadn't seen it. I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong, since my son always coughs when he lies. But why on Earth would he lie about something like this?

        I went to my son's room to investigate, and eventually I groped around under his bed and felt something. I pulled out my hammer, which to my shock had a condom pulled over it which was also covered in my son's feces. It didn't take me long to realize what my son had been doing. I prayed for the strength to pull myself together, and my wife and I finally confronted our son with the evidence. We tried to remind how un-Christian what he was doing was, and pleaded with him to tell us what this was all about, and how we could help him. He stood silent for a moment, and replied with a scowl and a limp-wristed gesture, "F*ck God, f*ck religion, and f*ck you." He then claimed to be "gay," and said that there wasn't anything we could do about it. My son, a filthy homosexual! I could barely come to terms with the idea, and was indeed in outright denial for over a week.

        After I finally accepted the truth, though, all I could think of was God, how could this have happened? I retrieved the logs of my son's online activity during the past month, where I discovered that he had been receiving unsolicited email invitations to visit homosexual pornographic websites. All of these emails originated from the domain "ninenine.com", which itself hosts pornography and other depraved material. Since the website itself had no contact information, I decided to use the WHOIS information on the domain to contact whoever registered it and inquire as to whether they knew their domain was being used for sick and disgusting purposes. The information returned by WHOIS is obviously fake, however. The Administrative contact section lists one "John Smith" living on 10 Main St. in Las Vegas, Nevada, with telephone number 555-555-1212. I don't know what your policy on fake WHOIS information is, but if it is at all possible I would like the information on the domain to either be corrected or the domain terminated. I have a right to know who did this to my son.

                                        Sincerely yours,
                                        [REDACTED]

I Have ADD (2, Insightful)

bluethundr (562578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050393)

Someone please read this for me and tell me what it means.

Grassroot MANs Are the Solution (1)

WiseWeasel (92224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050423)

The obvious final outcome here is that people are going to start forming grassroots wireless networks on a metropolitan area level, and interconnecting these networks through encrypted tunnels through standard ISPs. It'll start by people getting access points to access metropolitan area services at high bandwidth, something like Mesh [oreillynet.com] would be used to provide the network infrastructure, and eventually, this will end up as an ad-hoc wireless internet. Obviously, the software is going to have to evolve to be very scalable and have acceptable performance, but what we will be left with is a truly free network by construction (decentralization), even if we can't include everyone in the middle of nowhere. People will first use it for gaming and sharing media, but businesses will jump at the opportunity to get access to a targeted metropolitan network, and TV affiliates might find it an attractive method of reaching local viewers. Even if the connections outside the MAN are poor, most cities and towns would surely find good uses for high speed local networks. As these networks grow, they will become more and more interconnected, and hopefully replace the centralized internet we have today for all but the longest hops. The killer (commercial) application for this is obviously going to be video and local services. To get TV affiliates interested, though, there would need to be a proven audience, and p2p filesharing and low-lag gaming is going to be the driving force for this adoption. Once the infrastructure is in place and companies can get free high-speed access to customers in their area, a huge new market for broadband services will open up, along with the advertising possibilities targeted at local customers. The rest is the hardware; current wireless routers have insufficient range and bandwidth to make starting such a network on a large scale viable. We would need a cheap, high bandwidth, and long(er) range solution to get this party really started. Maybe in 5-10 years that kind of technology will be available, and then this ad-hoc network will almost create itself. I really find it hard to believe that anyone is really capable of preventing this from happening at this point. We have the will, we have the communication capability, we have the ingenious coders and open source community, I'd say it's pretty much a done deal. All we need is the obvious hardware solution to make it all a reality.

Blah Blah Blah (0, Flamebait)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050460)

Blah Blah Blah ... invented by US military ... blah blah blah ... used by other people/organisations ... blah blah blah ... expect it to be free.

It might be cynical, but this was essentially my stance on the 'make the internet free' thing. Yes, I think we should make the internet free, but it's not up to the European Union to decide whether it's free or not, it's up to the US and it's their decision that matters.

And don't take this viewpoint too seriously, because at the moment it's based off my knowledge of current happenings, which may or may not be too correct.

Re:Blah Blah Blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050526)

I am an American living in Europe and I don't understand USA's stance. The inernet doesn't belong to anyone ( I wouldn't like it controlled exclusively by the EU either. Things might be better here for now, but expect it to be worse after Over-Atlantic-Pressures.), but currently the internet's maker is abusing all the internet once standed for through corporate greed. Usa wants the internet? OK with me, as long as it protects the world's interests. And not like our genius did in Iraq.

"Content" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050594)

The problem here is copyright, plain and simple. Instead of a direct market for intellectual labour, copyright gives us a pseudo-market for access to the products of that labour. Now all of a sudden the money's in restricting access to "content". That's right, the financial incentive is to STOP people making use of information. With that counter-productive basis, how is it any surprise that we end up with a market where the sellers have a vested interest in PREVENTING the buyers from getting what they want? This applies to both the publishing houses and the access providers.

The control freaks often get control. (4, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050612)

I agree exactly with the thesis of the article. The Internet is being divided and debased by people who care only about avoiding knowledge of their own deficiencies, such as some of the leaders in China.

The control freaks often get control. In the past, their power over the Internet has been limited by their extreme technical ignorance. Now, more and more, they are hiring technically knowledgeable people to corrupt and diminish the freedom.

If the healthy people don't assert their authority, the corrupters will debase the Internet as they debase everything else they touch.

The ceaseless activity of those whose only life is money and who want to make one more dollar has already caused limits to VOIP, for example. The communications companies want to protect their easy profits. They use VOIP, but they don't want us to do it without their permission or without their profit.

Can someone answer this.. (1)

js92647 (917218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050705)

This isn't really trolling, it is quite relevant too:

Why must the majority of slashdot news revolve around the "Future" ? I see so many news articles that talk about some guy and how his blog has a little essay where he predicts the future.. blah blah, have the comments argue against it,half for it, etc... Why aren't there news of TODAY? I don't care if some should-have-been-a-blowjob posts on his blog that in the future we'll have to pay more fees for internet and be restricted to a small chunk of it. News is supposed to be News, and some asswipe telling his thoughts in a well-structured essay isn't news, it's opinion.

I thought Slashdot's slogan was "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." Well, some failure's opinion isn't news, and it doesn't matter.

As for the article itself, he's missing out the fact that such a movement to restrict Internet and make us pay for these "free" services will cause great tension and perhaps if we're lucky start a war between countries -- thats IF we're lucky --. Of course, like any other good soon-to-be-savior-like-Khan he gives us a "solution" from the get-go. Problem is: No one is going to follow through with it until it's too late, that is, if this happens.

Those are my 2 cents,
Jesus out.

Re:Can someone answer this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050783)

Because we are going to spend the rest of our lives there?
Because of all the bad stuff that has happened cannot be changed and the only problems we can avoid are the ones yet to come?
Because if we wait for problems to become the past, we lose the ability to change it?

Feel free to add more.

And the reason why the fredom of the internet can be taken away is because we rely on a company to provide access and that company is open to suasion. Try to connect to the backbone yourself...

why do replies appear as parents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050708)

Do we actually have people reading slashdot that upon reading a comment that they want to reply to, go back to the top of the page and use that reply button? Or is it that their parent posts have such piss-poor karma that they don't even get to indent replies?

The Net? (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050712)

Is this about Microsoft's .Net software? Oh wait ... The Internet.

In America... (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050752)

This article and the comments on /. are almost exclusively relevant for USA.

1. Nobody else in the world worries about Freedom in the way Americans do - like it was something divine, more important than anything else. What we in the rest of the world think about freedom is simply that we can live our daily lives without too many restrictions and without fear. What I think about the American obsession with Freedom (TM) can be summed up thus: If you're starving, all you can think of is food; if you're thirsting, all you can think of is water - perhaps you guys are really starved of freedom?

2. The internet - it is nice, really useful when it comes to finding information and communicating. I have enjoyed it so far, but I can see more and more reasons why I can't really be bothered with it. It's like TV: initially it was deeply fascinating, then there was things like the news and films; but now it's just wall to wall crap like talk shows, 'reality' TV, films over the same tired, old theme and endless soaps. I have a TV, but I haven't watched it for months. I think the same thing will happen to the internet - those who can get themselves to bother, will use it. Perhaps it will be used for specialised things like VOIP etc.

I think my point here is that laying on restrictions in thick layers will just end up discouraging people from using it; there's no business sense in it. The internet is not something we can't easily live without if that makes more sense.

People forgets what the internet is (1)

javilon (99157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050762)

The internet is TCP/IP. That is, a numbering system for nodes and routing rules so you can send small packets of information from A to B.

Because it is so simple and basic, it is very close to the very definition of communication, and in order to stop it from working it would be neccesary to stop communication at all. I mean, you can inplement TCP/IP over pigeon transport or whatever means of communication is available to you (telephone , radio, messengers, snail mail, etc)

At the minimum, this days bussiness need to be able to communicate _encrypted_ information with eachother and with foreign bussiness, even in dictatorships, in order to be able to run even a basic economy, so I don't think anybody would be able to stop you from communicating. You just have to register as a bussiness.

I think people is mistaking the web for the internet.

Tubes? (1)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050795)

What tubes? Where do these tubes lead, and why do things tend to go down these so-called tubes? I'm sorry but this just doesn't sit well with me.

Could someone condense it? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050812)

I started reading TFA, but it contains too much sensationalism and hyperboles for me to put up with. Could someone condense it a bit; summarize the actual arguments and reasoning?
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