(by way of Pit Schultz ) on Mon, 5 May 1997 08:50:27 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> France is jumping in the techno-liberal-bandwagon

[should i tell you how happy i am about this an historical moment for nettime?
lets all embrace the first mail from France, the proud and mysterious nation
which seems to resist the internet for so long! read all about it now.  -p]

How France is jumping in the techno-liberal-bandwagon

Three months ago, France was considered to be the most computer-illiterate
country in Europe. From the media point of view. Of course one should not
ignore that France has a very strong background in military secrets and a
lot of its sensible computers are highly protected and not accessible
through the Net. That is one of the reasons why Internet has had
difficulties to grow here, the other one beeing the protected confortable
revenues of Minitel.

So, about three months ago, our president was inaugurating the new
Mitterand Library, and radio and TV journalists were able to hear him
asking a lady who was demoing a multimedia application : what is... a mouse
?". Everybody was flabbergasted : our president is a computer illiterate !
But a week later, he was welcoming Bill Gates (as a chef d'etat) and
immediately after he was talking on TV about how France was going to
network all of the schools and universities within the end of his mandate.
There is just a slight problem : french schools are under-equipped since
the failure of 1980ies Plan Informatique, and no budget-plan was announced.
Even worth, the "new" government's policy (if they are to be elected again)
is a drastic downsizing of public expenses, so one can wonder who is going
to pay. Some other interesting bits of information : France has recently
refused to contribute to the construction of the new European backbone.
Experiments on Internet access through cable is obviously slowed down by
France Telecom (who owns the main cables in big cities). Access to the few
available public education websites is restricted to MS Explorer or
Netscape 3.0. And two weeks ago, 6000 web sites hosted for free by Mygale
(a non-profit server based in University of Saint Denis (north of Paris)
have been shut down on the pretext they were eating too much of the
bandwith of Renater (the french University and Research bone). This rude
black out means there are no plans for any "public space" or "public
service", in other words the whole Internet activity is left to commercial
providers, the biggest one beeing France Telecom. It also means that
despite an over-protective francophone attitude, there is no intent to pay
for its costs.

Everybody knows that France is also one of the three countries in the world
to purely forbid encryption. France has already voted for key-escrow
systems, and is trying hard to push forward these control-systems at EEC.
France also committed a report (the Beaussant Report) proposing the
creation of an "independent" committee responsible for the "decency" of
Internet contents. Which means that this committee, an equivalent of the
Audiovisual High Autority, will statuate on the political-correctness of
Net contents, thus considering Internet as a mass media and applying it the
same laws and rules as other mass medias.

Since the "mouse-story", and specially since they started the election
campaign, one can listen french right politicians claiming that France has
to jump in modernity, and bless the liberal techno-future which is going to
bring her the solutions to her problems. Unemployment is a problem, you can
find a job on Internet. French people don't consume enough, they will on
Internet. There is a lack of dynamic start-up companies, they will blossom
on Internet, where everybody knows there is plenty of companies making
money. Etc, etc.
Three days ago Le Monde mentionned another report planning to offer a Net
access to every french citizen, hundreds of public access terminals
animated by the newly multimedia educated soldiers of our brand new (still
in the limbs) professionnal Army, and taxes reduction for multimedia
companies. Again the fundings are all but explicits.
What is clear anyway is that France apparently decided to jump in the
techno-liberal-bandwagon. Unless it is mere electoral propaganda, which I
don't believe. After beeing considered as a neolitic country, she is now
entering the Net as a proud newbie who has just read "Internet for
Dummies", but has empty pockets and no boarding ticket. Flame on her !

[more soon!]

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: