Re: Political participation for whom? [cr-95/9/10]


Sender: Michael Boyle <•••@••.•••>

On Sat, 16 Sep 1995 •••@••.••• wrote:
> Sender: •••@••.••• (Don Porter)
> >Sender: Heidi Howard <•••@••.•••>

> >[...snipped - about access issues...]

The issue of access to network services and what that might look like is
one that is relatively better developed here in Canada, IMO. It has been
one of the central issues of our Information Highway Advisory Council
(IHAC) and it has been one of their important weak areas, a point that
has been made well by a group called P-IHAC, "P" standing for Public.

In sum, the IHAC have been fairly consistent in advocating a
market-driven approach to ensuring access, at the same time making the
point that ensuring access is an area in which some government
involvement might be worthwhile. On the whole, it sounds like a
reasonable solution (or path down which a solution might be found, as
things develop).

The problem, and this is where the dissent is focussed, is that their
definition of access is very narrow and does not show a tremendous
appreciation for the potential of the internet and whatever it is that
might follow today's internet. This definition is weak on two points,
points that are quite closely linked. First, they define the problem of
access in terms of consumers - presumably people (although the language
of consumerism rarely actually takes 'people' into account) who should
have access to information that is provided by producers of such information.

Following very closely is the second problem, and that is that such a
definition does not allow for access to be promoted symmetrically. In
determining that access means that consumers should have access to
material provided by producers of content, they ignore the fact that such
a definition says nothing to the issue of who these producers are. Thus,
"access" doesn't look a whole lot different from the access we currently
have to things like cable TV or whatnot.

The point of this (rather long, sorry) explanation is that when we talk
about access in this context, we must remember that access must
explicitly refer to what *kind* of access, not just how to ensure that
many people have access. For me, access must mean that many or most can
tap into the system, but also that in doing so they must be able to send
out information as readily as they can receive it in their homes or
offices, limited only by their ability to "produce" content in whatever
form they feel interested.

And, finally, this is where the access issue becomes so
important - not just in ensuring that an economic model is put in place
that could maximize "access", but that the hardware decisions,
government-sponsored research and other policy issues at hand be taken
with an eye to ensuring that the networks that proliferate will more
resemble the internet than, say, cable TV. Either could be the
"information superhighway" but I think we all know how hollow that would
be if the latter obtained. I don't think it's a forgone conclusion.



   "Don't hate the media. Become the media." -Jello Biafra
Michael Boyle               <>
<•••@••.•••>                    PGP Spoken Here!

 Posted by --  Andrew Oram  --  •••@••.••• --  Cambridge, Mass., USA
                 Moderator:  CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)

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