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November 16, 2005

Saving the Net from the pipeholders r> I've spent much of the last two weeks writing an essay that just went up at Linux Journal: Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes. It's probably the longest post I've ever put up on the Web. It's certainly the most important. And not just to me.
 I started writing it after a recent surprise visit by David Isenberg to Santa Barbara. He's the one who got me — and, I hope, us — going.
 I finished writing it yesterday after David Berlind published three excellent pieces, which I highly recommend reading, and acting upon.
 For guidance during the rest of this thing (whether they knew it or not), I also want to thank David Weinberger, Dave Winer, Steve Gillmor, Kevin Werbach, Cory Doctorow, Don Marti, Richard M. Stallman, Eric S. Raymond, Susan Crawford, Larry Lessig, John Palfrey, Chris Nolan, Jeff Jarvis, Craig Burton, Andrew Sullivan, Paul Kunz, Dean Landsman, Matt Welch, Sheila Lennon, George Lakoff, Om Malik, Phil Hughes, J.D. Lasica, Virginia Postrel, Jerry Michalski, Chris Anderson, Esther Dyson, Jim Thompson, Micah Sifry, John Perry Barlow, The EFF, the Berkman Center, the Personal Democracy Forum and others I'm overlooking but will fill in later when I have the time.
 Here they are: Bob Frankston, David Reed and Dan Bricklin, Phil Windley, Dave Farber, Elliott Noss, Vint Cerf, Joi Ito, Lauren Weinstein, Bret Faucett, John Clippinger, Kevin Barron...
 Although it's kinda huge, Saving the Net wasn't written as a Finished Work, but rather as a conversation starter — a way to change a rock we're pushing uphill to a snowball we're rolling downhill.
 Larry Lessig started rolling it at OSCON in 2002, and in various other ways before that, and the whole thing has been too damn sisyphean for too damn long. Time to change that.
 There's a thesis involved: that the Net is in danger of becoming what Kevin Werbach calls "a private toiled garden for the phone companies", but that the bigger enemy is in how all of us understand the Net itself. We have choices there, and those choices may mean life or death for the Net as most of us have known it — and taken it for granted — for the last decade or more.
 A couple days ago I spoke with a group of several dozen local citizens gathered in the Santa Barbara County supervisors' conference room to discuss forming a broadband task force. Early on, I asked people what the Net was. This brought up an amazing answer: there is no one answer. Anybody can give a clear answer to the same question when the subject is roads, or electrical service or water service. But the Net isn't so clear, even though all of us use it every day.
 So the answers were varied; yet one assumption stood out: i's a place, and not just fiber and copper, or a transport system for pumping "content" from producers to consumers. It's something we go on and not just through. Those two concepts — The Net is a Place and The Net is a Transport System — are both true, and yet often at odds, especially when it come to lawmaking, which has been driven to a lopsided degree by industries that live mostly in a habitat the Net has mostly thrived outside of: The Regulatory Environment. This is where the phone and cable companies have an upper hand, and where they have natural partners among the copyright obsessives in the entertainment industry. All those groups want to kill the Net as we know it. If they have their way, the Net we know is toast. In the U.S., anyway. Which, as everybody outside the U.S. can tell you, affects the rest of the world in a big way.
 And plenty of Bad Stuff is happening out there too.
 All of it is being made much worse by a lack of consciousness about how we frame our understanding of the Net.
 I'm trying to raise that consciousness.
 Required reading: David Weinberger's The Longing, which predates Cluetrain, and comprises perhaps its most important chapter.
 Also Connectivity is a Utility, by Bob Frankston.
 [Later...] Pointage to the essay. Pointage to "Saving the Net". Pointage to this blog.

Posted by dymaxion at November 16, 2005 09:08 PM


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