Ronda Hauben on 22 Aug 2000 15:10:16 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> L.A. Times column, 8/14/00 -- Tech Policy (pt1of2)

(Part 1 or 2 part response)

Gary Chapman <> wrote:

>Thanks to Geert Lovink for passing on to me Ronda Hauben's response, 
>on nettime, to my recent column in The Los Angeles Times about US 
>science and technology policy and the election this year.

I was a bit surprised to find your column Gary of August 14, 2000 praising
the Democratic Party program on Technology on nettime considering
the fact that the protesters in Los Angeles on the streets at
the Democratic National Convention were helping folks around the
world understand that neither the Democratics nor Republicans
in the US have any interest in what the citizens of the US need
or want. That these political parties are part of the corporate
capture of the US government. And that there is a constitutional
crisis in the US government as a result of this reality.

And the column didn't raise any of the important questions about
the post WWII science and technology policy that my research has
shown need public discussion.

It is good, however, that Geert Lovink has encouraged a discussion
of this issue and I welcome the fact Gary has responded to what
I wrote.

>In general I agree with a lot of what Ronda has to say, as I usually 
>do, however we disagree about some things. Unfortunately, I think the 
>things we disagree with are fairly subtle and would require a very 
>long online discussion to explain. But I will offer some thoughts 
>here in response to Ronda's critique.

I am glad to hear that you agree with what I had to say, but didn't
see any indication of that agreement in either the original column
nor in this response and so felt it would be good to have it more
particularly stated.

My study of the post WWII US science and technology policy shows
this is an important area for the public, especially in the US,
to know the details of and that future science and technology policy 
in the will need to be built on an understanding of what has actually
happened and the implications toward future policy of developments
such as ARPA's support for JCR Licklider's computer science program
in 1962 and the lack of support for the program JCR Licklider
proposed when he returned to government service at DARPA in 1974.

>Ronda is absolutely correct to point out that the Clinton 
>administration has presided over the privatization of the Internet, 
>and, even more, the privatization of ALL telecommunications in the 
>United States. What was once considered a more or less public 
>resource, managed through monopoly agreements and government 
>regulation, has been turned over, without much public debate, into 
>private assets.

I had pointed out that not only had the Clinton administration
led the effort on the privatization of the Internet, but that
Gore's position was "as much private as possible" with regard
to the Internet.

And that the problem with this policy was that it was derelict
in its obligation to support the needed scientific research into
what government role with regard to the development and scaling
of the Internet is needed for the public interest to prevail.

>However, I think given the political context of the U.S. these days, 
>and the drive towards competitive services on telecom networks, this 
>was inevitable. 

It certainly is as you say "inevitable" if there are no voices
challenging the corporate program and pressures on the US government.

The break up of AT&T and the resulting end of Bell Labs as a 
premier communications research facility in the US was not 
"inevitable". However, it is obvious that the mandate of AT&T
to provide the most advanced technology so as to make it possible
for there to be universal access to phone service to all in the US
(POTS) was not something that could rely on support others in
the corporate world. 

They would spend their time and money trying to end such an entity,
and other sectors of the US population didn't find the means 
to intervene adequately to prevent the end of Bell Labs.

However, when a society that allows the end of such an important
research entity, it shows there is a deep problem in that society
that has to be understood and corrected.

(Bell Labs is the entity that gave the world important technological
developments like the transistor, the laser, UNIX, C and the forefronts
research of people there like Claude Shannon and Richard Hamming and 
a number of other mathematicians and scientists.)

Also the US was able to develop and maintain a world class 
telephone system because of the fact that it had such a research
facility as part of AT&T and that AT&T was under the requirements
of regulation.

The deregulation wind in the US with regard to communications
and other public utilities is in fact an evil, and there are
others around the world that agree that the deregulation of 
public utilities is indeed a grave problem for the populace
to find a way to reverse.

>have cut a much better deal. I personally don't believe I would be 
>uploading this file at 384 Kbps if it were not for some modest amount 
>of competition in the telecom market in the U.S. 

How strange is this response to me. Your own personal ability is
the criteria by which you judge the public interest in a policy

And I don't consider what is going on in the US "some modest
amount of competition in the telecom market".  I see the streets
in NYC where I live being dug up to put in certain kinds of 
lines. These are public streets. It isn't that there can be
many different competiting lines laid in these streets as they
are being laid in what belongs to the public. Yet there is the
pretense there is so called "competition". Phone bills in my
area have skyrocketed, lines are unavailable to reach people,
the pay phones are in wretched condition, and people are 
having all kinds of trouble with their Internet access.

But even more importantly, there are whole sectors of the population
for whom such access is too expensive. And the advanced,
scientific research that looks ahead 10 or 20 years that
went on at Bell Labs in the field of communications research
has been ended. 

So the public interest in communications policy has been harmed
by the so called modest amounts of "competition" that you
Each person has to negotiate their own rates with the every
changing telephone companies they have to deal with, and those
rates are significantly higher for worse service.

I understand that there are those sectors of the population
that do benefit, such as large corporate players, but the public
in the US is not served by the breakup of AT&T and the loss
of Bell Labs and of public obligation on the corporation that
supplies telephone service.

This response is getting a bit long so I will send this as
part I of the response. In general I don't feel it is productive
to give the example of the breakup of AT&T and the ending of 
Bell Labs as the proof that the public in the US has benefited
from the Clinton-Gore policy of the privatization of public

(see especially chapter 9)

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