Monday, March 05, 2007

Free as in Speech

For me this started over a discussion with Gervase Markham on the Mozilla Manifesto.

My question was whether point 10 ...

"Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment."

... is a role for private company.

After some discussion I resolved this issue within my own mind using a "flip" test.

"If the internet was a propriatory system controlled by a small number of self interested groups, would a company be willing to promote the opening up of the internet as an infrastructual good for the greater good of society and itself."

Obviously enough, if you're not part of the small controlling group or you believe that the internet serves humanity better as an infrastructural good or you believe in liberty in communication - then of course you would!

This led me to the concepts of net neutrality. Now if you don't know about this - then watch the video, it's old but useful.

For more info see Save the Internet and their video.


Anonymous said...

I think it is abundantly clear that the net neutrality issue is not going to go away. As the Internet matures the threat of corporate interference if not wholesale takeover through monopoly of the “wires” that connect us will increase rather than decrease. Despite the seeming success of the net neutrality proponents, legislation is not the solution. Not only will this result in a fee-fest for lawyers and lobbyists but it only addresses the problem in the US. Are we going to try and get every government in world to pass the same laws?

The best and only way to counter this threat is by owning the “wires” on a collective, open source style basis. The gist of the idea is outlined

I've just launched this initiative which is explained in a short video at the above-mentioned site. As you will hopefully see, the idea is not as insane as it sounds.

swardley said...

Interesting post and video - I wish you the best of success, sometimes insanity becomes the right course of action.

My own view is that a collective societal good (where the benefits of common ownership far outstrips those of private ownership - often called an infrastructural good) are best managed through a collective societal structure - such as government (either through legislation or nationalisation).

The problem with a private collective (which is what you describe) is that no matter what the principles or ideals or composition orginially intended is, that such a situation can change rapidly as it is affected by private funding and in this case would require significant ongoing costs.

So I do understand your ideals, based upon removing artificial barriers of exclusion with a principle of unselfish gift rather than rational economic (& therefore selfish) man.

However as in the case of Asimov's unsafe three laws of robotics - the devil's in the details and be careful for what you wish for.

I'm more inclined to legislative control in favour of the society enacted by a government controlled through democratic means rather than a collective.

Of course, we may end up with a situation whereby legislative control favours certain individuals (as per radio frequency licensing) rather than society as a whole - but that's a political flaw with our current system which needs to be addressed independantly.

Still, best of luck.