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Re: The Disappearance of Public Space on the Net
Jason Wehling on Mon, 8 Jan 96 09:58 MET


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Re: The Disappearance of Public Space on the Net


On Sun, 7 Jan 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote:

> At 8:17 PM 1/6/96, MediaFilter wrote:

> >The Internet was started in the 1970's by the U.S. Defense Department
> >as a communications tool and is now being bought out by I.B.M., M.C.I. and
> >other megaCorporations.  April, 1995 marked the closing of the National
> >Science Foundation's part of the internet, and signaled the beginning of
> >the end of the publicly funded computer network infrastructure.

> This is a misinterpretation of events. IBM, MCI, and Merit created a
> not-for-profit consortium called ANS during the waning days of the NSFNet
> which essentially ran it under contract to the NSF. They had nothing but
> trouble with it and sank about a hundred million into it before getting the
> hell out. ANS ceased to exist before NSFNet did.

> Since then, the Net has been as it has always been, a wild conglomeration
> of public, private, and academic networks, trending slightly toward the
> private and small. There are a few larger enterprises involved, like
> Alternet and PSI, but both of them got big doing what they're doing now.
> And neither could be called a megaCorporation. I know of nothing of that
> description which is a major presence in the Net right now. Nothing.

I have a couple questions and comments about this. First, I am currently 
doing research on a book I'm working on about the Internet as a tool for 
political activism. Part of the work I have done is looking for control 
of the Net. And what I've found doesn't look pretty.

First of all, there has been a lot of talk about privatizing the Net. 
>From what I can gather, this is primarily focused on the backbone of the 
Net. 

This talk started many years ago, but two papers seem to me to be most 
important. First, was a memo entitled "Commercialization of the 
Internet", published in November 1990. It was a summary of a workshop 
with participants that included: Merit, RAND Corporation, NSF, AT&T, the 
U.S. Dept of Commerce, Bellcore, Digital Equipment, MCI, IBM and a number 
of Universities. ANd second is the NII Agenda for Action that calls for 
the privatization of the Net. This has already begun.

NSFnet was decommissioned back in late April, 1995. Instead of one 
federally funded backbone, there are currently four, private backbones, 
the coordinated by four regional NAPs (Network Access Points). From what I 
understand, these four: 
the New York NAP run by Sprint, the Chicago NAP run by Ameritech, the 
California NAP run by Pacbell and Bellcore and the Washington DC NAP run 
by MFS (Metropolitan Fiber Systems) are, in fact, megacorporations.

Currently, NSF awarded the new vBNS (Very-High-Speed Backbone Network 
Service) program to MCI. Together NSF and MCI will be building a new 
backbone that is faster (155M/sec and later to 622M/sec) than the current 
T3 lines and would be exclusively used for high-volume research activities.

MCI is also a megacorporation.

So on to the questions. First, I'm new to all this information and it is 
very difficult to find. What little I've found took many hours of 
searching to find. So is all this information correct? 

Secondly, I'm curious about the demise of ANS. I hadn't read that before. 
Where can I get information about that? I'm curious about the details. 
Also, what happened to the for-profit wing of ANS: ANS CO+RE? Is that 
still around and what does it do if it is?

It seems to me to be obvious that the Net is moving away from it's 
somewhat chaotic, but nevertheless centralized and public backbone of NSF 
to a more decentralized, but nonetheless private backbone of the Regional 
Bells and Long-distance providers.

___________________________________________________________________________ 
"We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege 
and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom             Jason Wehling 
is slavery and brutality."                        Email: <jason {AT} ee.pdx.edu> 
-- Mikhail Bakunin.                     Home: http://www.ee.pdx.edu/~jason/ 
___________________________________________________________________________