Re: cr> Reply to Arun on QUESTION of open net survival


Arun Mehta

Richard's points about the difference between Indian and US telecom
perhaps coloring my opinions is being driven home to me as I write: every
few minutes, my connection is being lost, and I have to redial. Some days
are worse than others, and this is a bad one. So, 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. That is also an argument against the
Republicans trying to "fix something that ain't broke." In an information
age, the telcos are key to competitiveness, and this would not be the
first area in which the US threw away a competitive edge.

On Fri, 26 Jan 1996, Richard K. Moore wrote:

> The political contexts are also radically different.  In the U.S. the
> situation is that an implicit coalition of large telco, cable, and media
> conglomerates is writing the agenda for the cyber-future, and is brokering
> it through government via its retained lobbyists, led by Newt Gingrich.  In
> our case, there's no real distinction between telcos as the "enemy" vs.
> government as the "enemy" -- one is the agent of the other.

Is there this kind of strong consensus between all these diverse entities?
The telcos and cable people do not see eye to eye on access to local and
long-distance telephony, each other's networks, basically. The leo and geo
satellite people also do not seem part of the same conspiracy. At least
doesn't so from a distance. 

As regards the politicians, I believe many voted for the measure in a
hurry, without knowing properly what it was. Newt is hardly leading the
charge against the Internet -- he publically opposed the censorship
measure. Maybe right now there is an anti cyberporn "wave." Not
surprising in an election year, but hardly a deliberate attempt at 
Internet control. I'm not saying the threat isn't serious, merely that it 
does not look like a conspiracy between industry and government to me.

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 
monopoly. Look what happened to IBM when computers became cheap.

> Yes, new technologies do offer the _opportunity_ for new constiuencies to
> achieve control over infrastructure
> The question is whether such ventures will be allowed to develop

That is key, and similar to a point that Henry made:

HH> your plan appears to assume that the new Net
HH> would be very much an underground-style, mobile entity.  Is that
HH> what we want?  It's not clear to me whether we should be adopting
HH> Cypherpunk- style "the powers-that-be will never like it, so just
HH> do it and fuck the law" guerrila tactics, or whether we should be
HH> placing any significant amount of faith in future law.  The
HH> Cypherpunks have long suggested that the existence of strong
HH> cryptography will *never* be tolerated by any gov't interested in
HH> keeping surveillance powers

I think the net needs the underground-style mobile entity to create a 
"fait accompli". I agree with the cypherpunks that governments are trying 
their damndest to prevent the use of strong cryptography, but pgp let the 
genie out of the box. Compare this with alcohol and tobacco: if these 
drugs had been discovered today, no way the FDA would have allowed them. 
Just so happens that people had grown used to them, so banning them was 

Now that strong encryption is freely available, and everyone knows 
about it, the government is having a hard time pushing through clipper or 
equivalent. So, one part of the net creates the fait accompli, the other 
fights to build its acceptance into law. Both parts of the net are 

My advocacy of satellite broadcasting of Usenet was not to suggest a 
"private" Usenet, rather a means to make it more public. Those that do 
not have access to all of Usenet today, and most don't, should be able to 
get it cheap. Cable modems will soon become affordable. Of course 2-way 
is better than 1-way, but 1-way is better than no-way.

Arun Mehta B-69, Lajpat Nagar-I, New Delhi-24, India. Phone +91-11-6841172
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic
walls;... Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the 
dreary desert sands of dead habit;.. Into that heaven of freedom, my 
father, let my country awake! -- Rabindranath Tagore