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Debate on Privatization of the Internet (fwd)
- Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 09:27:11 +0200
- From: Marloth _at__ t-online.de (Heinz Marloth)
- Subject: Debate on Privatization of the Internet (fwd)
der folgende beitrag aus den usa befasst sich nicht mit den
abdominalen aktivitaeten des praesidenten, sondern mit dem
> There was a meeting at the New School in NYC on Wednesday,
> Sept. 25, 1998 presenting itself as a forum for users of the
> Internet to discuss the U.S. government plan to privatize
> essential functions the of Internet. A description of the
> meeting was posted by one of the organizers who is from
> Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. I also
> attended the meeting and feel it is important there be a
> real users forum. Debate on this issue needs to break into
> the public arena, and particularly to happen on the
> Internet, since it seems the U.S. government won't allow
> open public discussion on this issue of Internet
> INTERNET PRIVATIZATION: OPEN COMPETITION OR MONOPOLY CONTROL?
> sponsored by CPSR and NYFMA
> [Hans:] Wednesday night's User Forum was a great success!
> Despite the logistical zig-zags most people found the hall
> and contributed to a lively discussion of DNS issues.
> [Ronda:] I didn't see lively discussion, but the effort on
> the part of the chair and the panel to try to prevent views
> other than theirs from being heard.
> [Hans:] We had a good-sized audience of about 50 people,
> four out of five panelists, and the use of first-class
> facilities at the New School.
> [Ronda:] The hall had actually fairly few people and when I
> counted it seemed like around 30 or so. Later some of the
> people mentioned they came as a result of one of the
> speakers sending them email.
> What is it you consider a success about it? It was in *no*
> way a forum. The Chair didn't encourage discussion, but
> encouraged those in the panel who basically agreed with each
> other and with the proposal of the U.S. government to
> privatize essential functions of the Internet to take up
> most of the time. It was announced as an Internet User
> forum, but only the self proclaimed representatives of Users
> - the CPSR and a vendor who is a service provider and his
> supporter were invited to speak or allowed to have their
> views presented.
> [Hans:] For me the evening's most significant product was a
> call to action.
> [Ronda:] I didn't hear a call to action. Instead I heard
> someone say that people online should have some way of
> knowing what is going on with all this. He basically seemed
> to be acknowledging that in fact those online [people] have
> no knowledge of what is happening or of its significance.
> [Hans:] There are only six days until September 30, at which
> time an Internet Corporation *may* be defined. Currently,
> two proposals for a corporation are being widely circulated,
> one from today's government contractors (IANA and NSI) and
> the other from a "Boston Working Group." Different versions
> of a third, public interest/user propopal are now also in
> the works.
> [Ronda:] You left out the proposal I submitted and which has
> probably been more widely circulated than any of the others
> "The Internet an International Public Treasure". This is a
> proposal that respects the Internet a[s] a new medium of
> worldwide communication." * The others treat the Internet as
> Internet Incorporated, or as a new cash cow to be milked.
> They talk about "competition" but the Internet was built on
> a cooperative and open process and scientific principles.
> And the essential functions need to be administered on these
> same principles. Nobody has made any arguments of why the
> cooperative open principles are no longer needed or why and
> how the Internet could grow and flourish if they are
> abandoned. Yet the proposals you talk about for a new
> private corporation to be set up on September 30 by the U.S.
> government abandons the principles and lessons of what has
> made the Internet possible. These other proposals for
> privatization are giving away to an unknown and private
> entity control over the essential aspects of coordination of
> the Internet including the root server system, the IP
> numbers allocation, the Domain Name System, and the
> protocols and standards development process related to these
> key aspects of the Internet. These are many of the functions
> that make the Internet an Internet rather than a fragmented
> Net. There is no talk in any of the proposals for
> privatization of any way to protect the administration of
> these essential functions from commercial pressures. Until
> the privatization of the NSF backbone to the Internet in the
> U.S. which began in the early 1990's (and was finalized on
> May 1, 1995) the U.S. government had provided the necessary
> and important protection of the integrity of these systems.
> Now however, the U.S. government is failing in that
> obligation and instead of fulfilling its obligation and
> involving the International community in the needed
> challenge, the U.S. government is moving to institutionalize
> the commercial and political pressures into the private
> organization that it is setting up.
> At the panel presentation, Milton Mueller said that the
> objective was to set up a private corporation that was
> "insulated from government."
> So these essential functions are to [be] insulated from the
> one entity that was able to protect them in the past, and
> they are to be put into the control and ownership of an
> entity institutionalizing the problems.
> [Hans:] As I and others at the forum noted, the public
> interest/user communities need to join together to finalize
> this public interest/user proposal. If public interest
> recommendations are incorporated into proposed by-laws on
> September 30, then the communities should all vocally
> express their collective support. If those recommendations
> are not included, then the communities should all vocally
> express a collective disapproval. Today's tasks are, first,
> to finalize a public interest/user proposal and, second,
> prepare to speak out together on September 30.
> [Ronda:] So you are deciding that CPSR is a self chosen
> representative for Internet users? That is how the whole
> offline society in the U.S. works, but the Internet has made
> it possible for users to represent themselves and the result
> has been a vibrant and cooperative culture and technology.
> But you and the other self chosen advocates of Internet
> Incorporated have decided it is time to end that, and
> instead to let you folks take over from the millions of
> users around the world who are quite able to speak for
> themselves but are being disenfranchised by the
> privatization process.
> [Hans:] Like I said, I felt that this call to action was the
> most important product of the forum. But there was lots of
> other interesting dialogue.
> [Ronda:] Well if you call advocacy for Paul's company or
> Mueller's friends' proposal or your positioning to get a
> seat on the Internet Incorporated board interesting. To the
> contrary the Chair of the meeting continually tried to
> prevent others from speaking who had a different position
> than the panel. And another of the speakers admitted that
> others with different views weren't invited to be part of
> the panel. But then he made no effort to encourage the views
> to be presented.
> Despite the effort of the organizers to prevent there from
> being any forum, a few people did try to speak under very
> difficult circumstances.
> [Hans:] Milton Mueller of Syracuse University spoke on free
> speech, trademarks, and domain names.
> [Ronda:] He spoke on advocacy for privatization and support
> for Paul. Those wanting free speech wouldn't be advocating
> privatizing the Internet.
> Private networks don't allow free speech. And one has no
> [Hans:] Marcy Gordon from CPSR provided a detailed overview
> of CPSR's policy positions -- which she sang and accompanied
> on guitar! (I thought it was going to be weird, but it
> turned out to be a real high point of the evening.)
> [Ronda:] She gave her sales pitch for the privatization in a
> song. That is the way the media in the U.S. long operated,
> promoting commercial products and aims with music. I guess
> that is the future you folks feel should be in store for
> Internet users.
> [Hans:] pgMedia's Paul Garrin gave a fascinating account of
> today's Internet governance structure.
> [Ronda:] Where did he talk about any Internet governance
> structure? He talked a little about his lawsuit against the
> federal government so his company can become the MCI of the
> Internet. But MCI has led to the death of Bell Labs and the
> substitution of product oriented research for the long term
> scientific and technical advances like the laser, the
> transistor and UNIX that folks at Bell Labs were able to
> contribute to the world. And the breakup of AT&T and U.S.
> Telecom regulation has led to increasing prices for the home
> user and has devastated the pay telephone system (in NYC it
> is often impossible to find a working pay phone). So the
> prospect of another MCI type victory, but this time with
> regard to the Internet is not very appealing, to say the
> least. And this is not indeed presenting anything that
> resembles the public interest, but rather a way to
> substitute self chosen representatives for the public to
> help those fleecing the public to cover their tracks.
> Talking about Internet governance would require talking
> about the cooperative and collaborative efforts of people on
> line to contribute to the Internet as a new medium of
> international communication. Also it would require talking
> about the online discussion that occurs to identify problems
> and solve them. (I have several papers about this if anyone
> is interested.)
> [Hans:] I talked about proposals for by-laws that would
> ensure public interest representation on the new
> organization's Board. Jessica Glass of the New York Free
> Media Alliance deftly moderated the feisty dialogue.
> [Ronda:] She continually refused to allow discussion and
> debate with the narrow views of the panel. Instead of the
> principle which has built the Net and which Voltaire
> espoused "I may disagree with what you have to say but I
> will duel to the death to protect your right to say it,"
> she cut me off anytime I tried to say anything and Hans, you
> did nothing to defend the right to speak. There was the
> need for a lively debate, but this panel of self chosen user
> respresentatives was not there to promote such debate, but
> to advocate for the privatization and for themselves as the
> representatives of Internet users.
> [Hans:] While most people discussed *how* to privatize the
> Internet, some participants questioned the very act of
> privatization. Ronda Hauben argued that the Internet should
> remain in public hands. This is a view that few groups in
> the U.S. have voiced, although it may be more popular
> outside of the U.S.
> [Ronda:] I didn't get any opportunity to argue as I was
> constantly cut off by the chair.
> But there were others at the forum who made an effort to
> challenge the fact that the assumption of privatization
> is the squelching of the debate over what should happen.
> [Ronda continuing:] And I don't know about most groups in
> the U.S. and their views about privatization of the
> Internet. But I do know that there are many communities
> like librarians, scientists, programmers, etc. for whom it
> is important that the Net continue as an international
> public treasure. And I do know that there are many users
> and probably many groups who would be quite upset and
> frustrated with what is going on and that is why the press
> (at least in the U.S.) is so quiet about what the U.S.
> government is doing. In the U.S. privatization of the NSF
> backbone to the Internet has benefitted the big corporate
> entities and made access to the Internet impossible for some
> and at only rising prices for others. The freenets are
> being killed off by the U.S. government's support for
> privatization. And when there was the opportunity for a
> real debate among the public, as happened in November 1994
> in an online conference sponsored by the NTIA, the majority
> of public sentiment was against the privatization of th NSF
> There are two chapters describing the debate and the
> different views of the public in "Netizens: On the
> History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet", the
> URL is in my signature.
> [Hans:] In summary, it was an exciting evening with a lot of
> good discussion and a powerful conclusion. I think that
> some day we will look back and recognize it as an event that
> catalyzed the public interest/user community at this key
> juncture of the Internet governance process.
> [Ronda:] To the contrary, any advocates of users or the
> public would be advocating a debate with the assumption of
> privatization, not support for it. And as one person who
> spoke from the audience, any true public interest advocates
> would be advocating letting as much of the public know of
> the problem of what is happening as possible. (The U.S.
> press is either totally silent or functioning as presenting
> public relations releases for the U.S. government actiions.)
> [Ronda's final thoughts:] The question raised by this all is
> a profound question:
> What authority does the U.S. government have to give to a
> private entity (of its own creation) the essential functions
> of a public international treasure?
> The U.S. government was entrusted with the care and
> administration of these functions, not with the ownership of
> them so as to give them to its chosen corporate cronies.
> The U.S. government has an obligation to the public in the
> U.S. and to the International community to be protecting
> these essential functions from exactly the kind of abuse it
> is now subjecting them to. It is important that those
> around the world who care about the Internet and its future
> find a way to challenge this attack on the cooperative
> technology and culture that makes the Internet possible.
> Hans Klein, Southern Regional Director
> Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
> Chair, CPSR-Georgia
> ronda _at__ panix.com
> to see the draft proposal to protect cooperative
> culture of the Internet and suggest begin to find a means to
> involve the International community in the process of
> changing the administration and control over these essential
> aspects of the Internet see:
> 1. http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/other/dns_proposal.txt
> 2. Netizens: On the History and Impact
> of Usenet and the Internet
Heinz Marloth Seehofstraße 15 D-60594 Frankfurt, Germany
Tel. 069 - 61 23 94 eMail: marloth _at__ t-online.de
Listeninformationen unter http://www.inetbib.de.