cr> re3: QUESTION of open net survival


Richard Moore

Date: Sat, 27 Jan 1996
Sender: Off the Edge <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cr> A QUESTION: will the open net survive?

>     The question:  Will open, Internet-style communications survive
>                       the commercialization of cyberspace?
>I'm convinced survival is unlikely, not because the two _couldn't_
>co-exist, but because of strategic political considerations -- the
>potential threat is too great that Internet could enable large-scale,
>grass-roots, political orgnanizing.  The "establishment" doesn't want a
>technology-enabled New Left (or whatever) on its hands, and the tools are
>being put in place to clamp down.

        If by the above question we can infer that "Internet-style
communications" are "open" than the answer is yes. Note this email. No
commercials unless you count the domain name. While the Web I surf looks more
and more like Prodigy, the email I get remains largely sponsor free. When
the day comes I have to include a .sig that says brought to you by, I am off
the net. Or, if the time comes when my ISP says I can't send that, I am on
the phone.

        As far as the Internet enabling "large-scale, grass-roots, political
organizing" I say it is time to lay to rest this myth of potential. In case
you hadn't noticed the net is a mirror medium only, which is why we can find
every group with a beef in the real world reflecting their beef in cspace. I
am tired of hearing the same people say how great net anarchy is while at
the same time trying to get people to organize by emailing their
technologically illiterate representative. I am sick of token organizations
trying to defend the net against career politicians. We are all so
enthralled by increasingly choked bandwidth we can't get away from our
keyboards to go march on Washington. Then net IS a tool as well, not a
political party.

        Oh, and if I seem bitter? It is because I am. I was happy to see
_Silicon Snake Oil_ die a quick bookstore death, yet I can't help feeling we
are missing the point.


RKM reponse to Arun's "Re: cr> Reply to Arun on QUESTION of open net survival":

Arun wrote:
>perhaps I should start
>by suggesting that the US telcos and regulatory regime have given you the
>best and cheapest facilities in the world, and the telcos cannot be as
>awful as all that.

Yes, they have done well for us, but it's precisely the successful,
pro-competition regulatory regime that's being scrapped by the Comm Reform
Act.  What changed is that the telcos have gone through a paradigm shift in
their business model.  They realized some years back that the cost of raw
ransport would be going through the floor with broadband et al, and they've
come up with a different scheme for maintaining revenues.  Their scheme
involves creating a marketplace that sells access to proprietary
information products instead of selling unbundled raw transport, and
arranging things so that the marketplace can be dominated by big players,
including themselves.  You might say the mentality of the news/entertaiment
industry has been adopted by the communications industry -- the two
industries are merging, and the telcos want the right to participate
profitably, not as commodity providers of transport.  Hence their Reform
Act gives them the ability to enter new territories, merge with other
carriers, and charge on whatever basis they want.  We've already seen the
monopoly-trending mergers begin.

>Is there this kind of strong consensus between all these diverse entities?

Yes indeed, the strongest you could imagine -- the Comm Reform Act itself.
Not all of the diverse entities participated or benefit, but enough of the
big ones have achieved enough consensus to carry the day.

>As regards the politicians, I believe many voted for the measure in a

Well, yes, that's how the system works.  First the corporate coalition
decides what it wants, then it recruits a legislative team to draft and
champion the appropriate legislation.  Creating a sense of crisis (Exon's
one-sided hearings) and pressuring their colleagues to make a quick
decision are standard techniques to get the job done.

>Newt is hardly leading the
>charge against the Internet -- he publically opposed the censorship

Exon pushed censorship, Newt pushed the rest.  Newt made some noises
against censorship, but didn't go to the mat against it.  Overall, Newt
gets the most credit for brokering the whole package through Congress.  If
I were him, I would have insisted on distancing myself from the censorship
part as well, it's politically better for a near retiree like Exon to take
that blame.

>I'm not saying the threat isn't serious, merely that it
>does not look like a conspiracy between industry and government to me.

I see the relationship as government acting as the agent of industry, not
as an equal co-conspirator.  Government doesn't have a vision of the cyber
future to conspire about, instead it's buying into one that the industry
prepared for it.  I'd call it a conspiracy on industry's part, since they
know the vision leads to monopoly control, not to increased competition (as
it claims).  I'd call the coporate-pandering legislators corrupt, rather
than conspiratorial.

>If one takes a look at monopolies of the past, there was a
>natural scarcity, unequal distribution (like diamonds), few producers,
>or something in that line. In telecom, there is no such basis for a

There are monopolies that don't have anything to do with natural scarcity,
and they arise from gaining control of distribution channels.  That's what
happens with movie distribution, for example, when you get mega chains of
multi-screen theaters.  It's happening more with food, wine, and other
goods as you get mega importers and mega retail chains.  Big operators can
out-bid independents in obtaining product (due to volume), and can
undersell them in the marketplace, due to product exclusives and/or volume
discounting.  This kind of distribution-monopoly is what the Reform Act
enables in cyberspace.

>I think the net needs the underground-style mobile entity to create a
>"fait accompli"...

You can build it, and they will come, but can it survive?  I'd say Exon
makes it unlikely, and the events in Germany are beginning to show those
dynamics unfolding..

>Now that strong encryption is freely available, and everyone knows
>about it, the government is having a hard time pushing through clipper or

It's first stumbling attempts failed a few years back (and CPSR helped in
the defeat).  At this point, the mandating of key-escrow encryption is
close to a done-deal.  When they decide its time to enact the legislation,
expect to see "terrorism" used with the same success as "child-porn" was in
the case of censorship.  Already, the principle of mandated key-escrow is
being sold by the U.S. to the EU, and after some consulation, is being
received favorably by the business community.



 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
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