Ronda Hauben on Wed, 21 Jun 2000 16:22:31 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The role of government in the development of the Internet

Terrence J Kosick <> writes:

>The government can play a role of keeping its own and not 
>allowing corporations and intrusive kinds of market forces 
>dictate the development of the net. 

I agree that government can play this role, but the real problem is
that there is a need to determine what role govenment should play.

The Internet was developed by a good process of government.

There needs to be a summary of this good process and the lessons
taken to determine how to continue a good role for government
in the continued development of the Internet.

There is an infrastructure of the Internet that needs government

Instead of figuring out what form this protection needs to take
and how to have a long range and short range plan for how to provide
it, there has been the kind of statement that Al Gore made of
encouraging the "private sector to lead."  They have led indeed.
They have led us into a situation where the precious development
of the Internet is being destroyed and replaced by a compuserve
type of development.

If there is to be a continuation of the development that has
made the Internet an important new human-computer-communications system,
the public sector has to oversee and protect that development.

Interestingly enough, this was done not only in the US but around
the world in other countries as well for a significant period 
of time.

How the commercial entities fit into this development also needs
to be determined, rather than just allowed to happen, or even
worse, in the US the commercial entities are pressuring government
and government gives into their pressure for them to do whatever
accords with their "bottom line" with the Internet.

>Government control could wisely extend to the net as far as it can 
>control corporate intrusion. 

This is a minimal role, and so leaves the education, academic,
library, and other noncommercial communities still at the mercy
of the commercial.

In the development of the Net in the US there was an effort by government
to encourage and support resource sharing for the development of 
the Internet. The resources to be shared were both human and 
computer resources.

This was a positive role, rather than just a preventative role.

There is the need also for government to support scientific work
to determine what kinds of scaling research is needed.

That was what was done in the development of the Internet.

Government empowered scientists to support the scientific community
to develop what was needed for the growth and scaling of the 

These scientists (who were part of the Information Processing 
Techniques Office at ARPA) provided leadership to the computer
science community who in turn had the support they needed (funding,
laboratories, etc) to do the development of what was needed for
the Internet.

This kind of research support and leadership continues to be needed,
and it needs to evolve so it is an international research community.

Instead we hear of "National Information Infrastructures" where the
vision seems to be mainly commercial. (Perhaps more like National
Commercenet Infrastructures.).

How to return to the recognition of the need for the basis for
the Internet to be scientific and educational research and 

That is part, I feel, of the challenge to the Internet community.

To figure out how to scale the Internet, there is the need for
even better leadership than in the past. There is the need to study
the kind of leadership there was and learn how to build on it.

I have tried to begin to do this with my recent draft papers on
the development of ARPA and of the IPTO and the centers of excellence
in US universities which made it possible to do the research that
provided the seeds for the Internet's development.

(See for example
There are other sections of the same paper at that site including
one on the centers of excellence that IPTO created.)

>The industry, politics, legislators and copyright associations are
>beginning to extend their monopolies to maintain control on the 
>internet inflicting their wills on the free use of this communication 

That is certainly a part of the problem.

But I see another part of the problem that there doesn't seem to 
be the kind of institutional form and support that is needed
to continue the scientific and technical research that created
this communication space in the first place.

I am proposing that there is a need to continue this scientific
work as well to determine how to protect and extend this communication

How do you protect cooperative, sharing technical developments
-- the Internet was created to make sharing possible - it is
in essence an entity for sharing.

The technical and scientific research was creating this sharing

Now the technical and scientific research seem to be geared toward
figuring out how to protect copyright holders and trademarks etc.

Thus even if one wins the present battle over the Internet and 
its infrastructure, the future development being researched is
how to create classes on the Internet, rather than how to ensure
that the sharing continues.

>It is the use of unfair powers that are the dark part of the net 
>and is a threat to the many thousands of people and small businesses 
>whose indefensible minds and voices are reaching out while they are 
>being drowned out by the din of intruding corporate market forces. 

There is a need to figure out how to identify the netizen spirit
on the Internet and how to support those who are trying to contribute
to the public development of the Internet.

The concept of Netizen grew up in the battle against the privatization
of the NSF backbone to the Internet in the 1992-1995 period.

People who came online during that period were amazed at the 
contributions others had made and took on to contribute something

The NSF required that those who used the NSFnet in that period
contribute something to it.

That was a support for those who wanted to contribute and to 
create something where contributions were encouraged.

The contributions were of educational archives, questions that
many would answer and the answers would be posted back on the 
Net, people would create software that they would contribute
back to the community, etc.

The opposite seems to be happening in general now.

>The social and economic impowerment of the independent peoples are 
>cultured by this communication environment. If anything we need to be
>protected by the stripmining corporations who's greedy intent have 
>little regard for individual freedoms and treat the presence of people 
>on the internet like datum to be captured like fish in their marketing nets.

I was just rereading some of the early vision of the development
of the Internet. What is so intriguing is that not only was there
a vision, but people then went on to be able to create a communications
system to implement that vision.

The vision wasn't to create a giant worldwide entity like the 
commercial networks also being created back in that period (like
compuserve). The vision was to create a resource sharing interactive
online community and to link that community with other online

That is the vision that seems to be under such attack by the
commercialization of the Internet and the efforts to privatize it 
and its infrastructure.

>This is a decidedly universally democratic place that like any uncharted 
>legal landmass should be left to govern itself, that will, like the people 
>who use it, flourish without the antagonisms and selfseving wills of the 
>few whose greater access to power threaten to trample the voices of the 
>free. If any government is to represent its people then it will legislate 
>limits on corporations whose size and access to legal powers can affect 
>the virtual rights and freedoms of netizens whose minds know no borders 
>and should not respond to the flagrant use of power of any
>corporation, any goverment or any body of law.

But this leaves out that the Internet was created by scientists
working as part of government and that they were able to do
something because of their position. 

And I am proposing that there is a need to have scientists working
as part of government who continue to work to develop and scale
the Internet and to understand its problems.

That there is a need for this to be done in an international setting
but how does that begin?

Early on there were scientists in different countries working
either under government or academic support who were able to 
do the needed work to create the Internet.

That is needed again. In the US it was scientists working as
part of ARPA/IPTO and with the academic community that had
IPTO and other government research contracts. In France it
was scientists working with INRIA. In Great Britain, computer
scientists working as part of the University of London (an
academic setting). 

A public sector can develop something in the public interest.

The commercial sector doesn't.

But also the public sector in the US now is being put to the 
service of developing what will serve the commercial sector.

There needs to be a reclaiming of the public sector to do
public interest research and development, not commercially
oriented research and development.

>terrence kosick


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