Re: consensus | Regulatory CHALLENGE


Richard Moore

3/28/96, Andy wrote:
>we have a ground-breaking purpose: to find a consensus statement.

>Does something like the following draft work better for Martin and
>Glen and perhaps still carry Richard and others?

We, the 500 members of the cyber-rights email list, agree by consensus

1.  Email is the communication/cooperation superhighway, completely
distinct from the information/entertainment superhighway.

2.  Email is the backbone of grassroots online organizing and holds
great promise as a democracy-enhancer.

3.  Email demands a miniscule amount of resources delivered at low
priority compared to information/entertainment applications.  Any
scheme that bases price on resources used and makes entertainment
affordable will render email almost free, as it should be.

4.  If a[n innapropriate] minimum charge per session or per transaction is
applied, only email will be [adversely] affected and it will be [felt] as a

direct attack by government on online democracy.

Therefore, *if* the government regulates the price of internet access,
the regulation must guarantee continued [widely affordable] access to email.

        I support this effort to achieve a consensus statement, and
appreciate Andy's leadership toward that goal.  I'm willing to endorse the
above statement, and wouldn't even add to it -- for what it covers, it
seems clear, concise and comprehensive.  I did suggest a few slight
refinements [in brackets] above.

        But this statement, assuming it goes out to some distribution list,
is only an initial baby-step -- if we actually seek to influence cyber
pricing policies.  It expresses a sentiment worthy of public exposure,
alerts people to what's at stake as the net goes commercial, and sends out
a wedge that we can widen with follow-up statments.  But taken on its own,
it would be dismissed as an impractical plea for special-interest privilege
-- in any serious discussion of pricing policy.

     (BTW>  I'm not clear on who the statement will go to: Does it go
directly to legislators?  Do we circulate it around the net and try to get
broader endorsement? -- sorry about my knowedge-gap here -- I missed a few
C-R postings.)


        Bit we can't have _any_ impact on pricing negotiations until we
take the time to understand cyber-pricing issues _comprehensively_.  What
pricing regimes are being seriously considered?  How would we like to see
them modified?  Do we have a comprehensive proposal of our own, or do we
know of one we could support?

        The reason I posted the "Straits of Consumption" was NOT to express
defeatism or pessimism, but to put forward my understanding of what pricing
regime is _actually_ being planned and implemented, based on the abundantly
available clear evidence.  In this default future, there is NO pricing
policy set by regulation, and the unrestrained business interests of the
big media/telecom players simply decree the regime they desire.  Of course
they will propagate forward the marketplace they've so carefully evolved to
control America's info-communications thus far.  Why wouldn't they?

        So for starters -- and many of you will cringe at this -- any hope
of net-culture surviving MUST be based on an effective regulatory role by
government.  The market-force incentives are simply not present, and in
fact those forces push in entirely the wrong directions.

        But then we're faced with the dilemma that Congress & Billy have no
desire to play an aggressive role in cyber economics, and wouldn't propose
_good_ regulations in any case.

        In these circumstances, if we seek to infuence pricing, I can't see
any other appropriate action for cyber-rights -- except for us to figure
out what regulation-package is _necessary_ for net-culture survival, and
then to articulate it and seek support from whatever constituency we can
reach.  But in order to figure out what's necessary, we would need to do
some homework.

        We must recognize, for example, that the current net architecture
is going to be superceded by a new one based on circuits.  Do we understand
how email will be handled in such an architecture?  Do we realize that
web-usage will be affected in quite different ways by circuit-technology
than will email?  Do we have any notion of how the technology transition
will be manged?  Will Internet carry on as an independent network?

        How can we get the information we need to understand what's really
going on?  One short-cut would be to track down some of the industry
consultants & lobbyists who must be swarming around Washington, and find
one sympathetic (or talkative, or boastful) enough to reveal what scenarios
are being looked at, what protocol debates are underway, etc.  Or maybe all
the information is on the net, in some industry-discussion bulletin board,
and we can find it via web searches.

        I believe CPSR was effective in its work re/ the Clipper Chip, and
that success came from developing and articulating expert positions re/ the
technology and the alternative policies under consideration.  It was easier
in that case, because the objective was to get the government to _not_ take
action, so we can hardly succeed without comparable preparation.

        I'm at a loss to predict what response will accrue to this
"challenge", or whether this kind of work is possible for this group.  But
I watched how our cyber-world swarmed all over the Exon initiative for the
past year, always on the defensive, how it was effectively isolated from
the actual legislative process, and had, unfortunately, net nil effect.  If
we limit ourselves to protesting this-and-that incremental pricing
adjustment, we're going to be bystanders once again, dragged kicking and
screaming into a cyber-future of someone else's design.