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Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet
Ronda Hauben on 3 Oct 2000 21:44:32 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet

vint cerf <vcerf {AT} MCI.NET> wrote:

>Internet has the capacity to become a primary infrastructure
>for communication during the 21st century, overtaking the
>telephone and absorbing the mass media. 

Interesting that you claim it has the capacity to be
a primary infrastructure for communication, when it hasn't
yet demonstrated that it can be a primary infrastructure for
interactive computer facilitated human-to-human communication
which is available to all.

This issue is raised at the US Dept of Commerce NTIA online 
conference in Nov. 1994.  Would access for all to send email 
be the priority of the development, or would access for high 
end users to do video be the priority. 
(See http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/
chapters 11 and 14)

What is the social-technical goal of the policy of Internet 
development and how can it be reached?

At the NTIA online conference a number of people argued that
getting everyone online with email access, and Usenet and 
a browser was the step toward further development. Then those
users could be involved in determining what the next step 
should be.

There is almost universal access to telephones in the US. By
replacing the telephones with an Internet infrastructure which
not all have access to, there is something that can be lost.

I went to a presentation two weeks ago that demonstrated that
home users in the US in a large part still depend on phone access 
for their Internet access, while corporations depend more on
other forms of access like cable modem and satellite etc.

And that there are real problems getting dsl and even cable 
modem access to people and working out the industry structure
involved with doing this.( Even David Farber who is now
Chief Technologist at the FCC in a mailing list post recognized
that there is concern at the FCCC that the problems represnted
by Microsoft's development not be repeated with the development
of the Internet. )

Also the presentation referred to a recent FCC report about access
and pointed out that the FCC claimed they had no way at this
point to determine what was happening with access and who
was being reached. That they used I think zip codes to measure
access to see if anyone in a zip code had access, in their report,
and that might be a corporation with satellite access.

That the very agency with the authority to understand what is happening
in the US at least is having a very difficult time and that is 
because the situation is a can of worms.

In general it seems that in the US corporations are encouraged
to have access, while there is less support for the public
to have home access.

In the US the way universal phone access was achieved was that business
use was to subsidize home and local use.

That meant that businesses benefited as there was a good communications
system they were part of.

Vint, there seems no recognition on your part that  there might be
one goal that MCI or other corporate entities would seem to benefit
from, but that there is a larger social question that needs to be
raised to show that in fact there will not be the benefit that
is being proclaimed despite even the best of a corporations intentions.

This is the problem of putting social development into corporate hands.

In a communications infrastructure, the more people who are linked
the more that infrastructure is of social utility.

That is why the telephone system in the US has been a great benefit
to the society. But the development of this system requied a 
research entity, Bell Labs, and regulation over the entity to 
provide that the social goal was being met.

The US telephone infrastructure grew up under public and social obligations
and laws that required that it meet social not "market" objectives.

The "market" it turns out is a poor architecture for a human computer
communications infrastructure.

For example, the issue of interactivity is a vital issue
with regard to a communications infrastructure.

If people can't communicate by the infrastructure, if they
mainly are the receiver of the communications of the corporate
elite, then what kind of communications infrastructure is it?

Television and video are not interactive in general.

To connect telephone and the interactive aspects of the Internet
(which seem to be waning rather than increasing) with an
infrastructure designed to include television and video,
has important social implications.

Will the one way pipe of television be what dominates the infrastructure?

Will the copyright desires of commercial content providers be what
the infrastructure emphasizes?

What about the public and intellectual contributions to the Intenret,

Can an infrastructure designed without the participation of the 
folks who don't have a commercial self- interest be an infrastructure 
that provides for the needed protection for the public and intellectual
contributions from the bottom up?

The Internet was developed as an interactive resource sharing
infrastructure, and the interactivity was built into
the development early on, with the development of time sharing.
The Internet wasn't created from whole cloth. It built on
the interactive development that had been very carefully and 
wisely recognized as the first step to build the human-computer
form of "mixed" system that was recognized as crucial for
a socially and technically beneficial form of computer-communications
system development.

There are those rushing to replace this with a different form of 
computing as an article in the May 2000 issue of the Communications 
of the ACM proclaimed, an article that declared an end to the
Licklider human-computer symbiosis paradigm. (The article was
by Dave Tennenhouse, formerly of DARPA and now at Intel)

>I wish it could be maintained as a neutral infrastructure - 
>in the sense that any telephone can call any other. 


>The Internet as an infrastructure has to be supported and
>maintained and that costs money. At present, the best engine
>for achieving that is to make Internet a commercially supported

Interesting. Originally the tcp/ip protocol was created to 
make it possible for dissimilar networks to communicate.

The onus for the system as on the dissimilar networks.
It was a peer to peer design with the protocol making it 
a metasystem.

A piece of the infrastructure is the DNS system, a piece
is the IP numbering system, and a piece is the protocol
creation and development process and the way that is
open to all.

What is the infrastructure you are referring to?

Are you not referring to any of what I have mentioned?

Also the networks that make up the Internet, the users
and their computers are all a part of what makes an 
Internet. The contributions of the users are part of 
what makes an Internet.

And much of this is not commercially owned.

So it seems you are claiming that ownership and control
of much that is not commercial should be ceded to 
certain commercial entities.

But to do so, not only would be harmful to the users
and their computers and the networks that are part of
the Internet, but more so, to the fundamental nature
of the Internet.

If you want to form a commercial network, why didn't
you do so.

Why did you take the public network and claim that it
now has to be made into this commercialnet.

The Internet is too important to many in the world 
and to the future of society to grant such a change 
in its nature.

This is a public question that requires serious public

Instead we get informed there is a decision by fiat
and we see manifestations of that fiat by the creation
and development of ICANN.
>Even national governments around the world could not
>afford to pour into Internet the level of resources that the
>private sector has provided and will likely continue to provide.

The private sector has been granted a goose that lays 
golden eggs by the research and scientific communities,
at least in the US. And the so called "private sector"
now claims that they have created the goose. All the
while it seems that they are intent on killing the

The users are paying for access, and paying lots of money
in many cases. The so called private sector paying for
this is actually the private sector reaping  significant
profits on their charges to users. The private sector is
not donating to the public trough.

So perhaps if you recognize that the Internet is not
only what you view, but something that is viewed by
many people around the world, and users in general
view it from a very different perspective than the 
perspective you offer.

Also, what are the consequences for a nation of ceding
control over the communication infrastructure in their
country to private corporations? Does a nation have
a way to maintain its sovereignty if it gives over
its communications infrastructure to something outside
of its control?

This was a question that Europeans had pointed out 
was an important issue they faced during WWII and
the occupation of their countries.

Can the people in a country have any chance to be
treated as citizens by the government if that 
government has ceded control of the communications
structure in that country to powerful corporate entities?

A communications infrastructure is the nervous system
of a nation. 

What about the government's obligation to provide for
the public welfare and the national defense if it
cedes the design and ownership and control of its
communication infrastructure to corporations that 
are beyond its control?

>Internet is both a manifestation of and an instrument of
>globalization. That is not always well-received as people
>and cultures feel the effects of interaction well beyond 
>their historical boundaries. But we cannot put the genie back
>into the bottle. That the world is interlinked in myriad ways
>is fact and growing more so. 

A  point of the creation of tcp/ip was, as I understand
it, the recognition that it would provide a means of communication
that respected national soverignty and political and administrative
automomy of the networks that were being interconnected.

This is the genie that you can't put back into the bottle.

You can't now claim that the only way to have global communication
is to put that communication into the hands of one coutnry
or some powerful corporations that are trying to usurp 
political or administrative automomy or national soverignty.

The fact that you didn't respond to my post about the fact
that there were good reasons why the privatization of the 
NSFNET backbone shouldn't have happened, or that there
was no response by the US government to the NTIA online 
conference, a discussion they asked citizens to participate in,
shows that there is little reason to trust that commercial
ownership and control of a communications infrastructure
in any country. The commercial ownership and control of a 
communications infrastructure is a serious problem for the 
citizens of that country and for the users of the Internet 
around the world.

>That we share spaceship Earth in complex and intimate ways 
>is also fact. 

But it doesn't seem that you or that companies like MCI
recognize that the Internet has grown up as a "mixed system"
where the user and the viewpoint of the user was important.
where the users have been architectures of the network,
that human-to-human computer facilitated communication has
been the vital essence of the Internet for its users over
a long period of time.

This means that the users need to be intimitely involved in
the decisions regarding the maintenance, growth and 
development of this unique and new kind of communications

This means that your view of the future is very different from
both the vision that gave birth to and guided the development
of the Internet from its earliest days, and from the vision
for the future of the Internet that many hold.

We need public discussion and decisions that are made based
on socially beneficially criteria, not merely some company's
bottom line.

>The Internet Society and the Internet Societal Task Force 
>see the Internet's beneficial potential and wishes to help 
>erode barriers to Internet access for everyone. At the same time, 
>ISOC members and ISTF participants also see the potential for abuse.
>Through various means, they participate in the dialog surrounding
>the protection of individual rights and interests as we make
>use of this new medium. 

But its not a question of "individual rights and interests"

The Internet is a social-technical construct.

You have removed the social from its roots and its future development.

Communication is a social process, and the technical means to make
it possible need to be built from social considerations.

Actually that is what Norbert Wiener realized with regard
to the development of the science of communication and control
which he called "cybernetics". And that is what JCR Licklider
realized who set the seeds for the development of the Internet.

And that is what you and Bob Kahn continued with your work
on the development of the ARPANET and then the design for

But putting this developemnt now into commercial hands is 
a retreat from that social activity.

This privatization of communications infrastructure process
is based on an inaccurate model of what it takes to 
make a communications infrastructure.

If you try to start from the notion of the "market" and the
"competition" of the market, you don't end up with a communicaitons

Perhaps you can build some form of a "commercenet" but
not a general purpose socially beneficial communications system.

And business as well as the home user as well as the citizen will
be the losers as the "communication" is what is so important
about the Internet for all these different users.

>I think we cannot run away from or hide from the expansion of
>the Internet so we need to embrace and help guide its evolution
>into fruitful and constructive paths. I believe Vice President
>Gore would find some resonance with these views.

If you depart from the originating vision that has made the 
Internet possible, how do you think you can guide its evolution?

And I realize that this is probably the kind of advice that
Al Gore has received, and this is why it is so important that
he not be dependent for advice on individuals with 
a commercial self interest in a particular policy.

Perhaps this is why, at least in the US, there needs to be
an Internet Commission, inside the US govenrment, so that
those charged with studying and proposing future Internet
policy be obvious, that they have an obligation to have
means of welcoming and discussing the plans for the future
with the public through online and other public processes,
and that they be under obligation not to be working for
a commercial entity, but instead recognize that they are
government officials.

Also this would mean that other countries would have a way
of knowing who was considering what for the US portion
of Internet development.

Such an entity should build on the expereince of the cration
of the institution that was the birthplace for the development 
of interactive computing and the Internet at the Information 
Processing Techniques Office (1962-1986) that was under ARPA.

Perhaps at least in the US there is a need to have
some means to open up the process of planning the future
of the US portion of the Internet, and that would require the 
creation of a government Commission with social and technical 
and scientific expertise and obligations.

I also saw a proposal for an international agency or commission
that would be required to take on social and scientific
and technical planning and research, in one of the conferences
in the early 1960's that was considering communications

These are perhaps ideas that need to be considered. But it 
is clear that to put the creation, maintenance, and future
development of the communication infrastructure for countries
round the world in the hands of a few corporate entities
developing it as their commercial undertaking, is a 
serious problem for the public in the US and around the world
and the users of the Internet.

This is perhaps even a worse scenario than the World Bank or
the IMF could conjure up. And it will be met with even greater
resistance as much more is at stake.

The Internet has been built on a different kind of development
up until 1995. And it is this other kind of development that
provides the basis for it to scale and grow and flourish.


ronda {AT} ais.org
ronda {AT} panix.com

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