Ronda Hauben on Wed, 21 Jun 2000 23:13:34 +0200 (CEST)

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

Declan McCullagh <> wrote:

At 09:32 6/21/2000 -0400, Ronda Hauben wrote:

>>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.

>In theory, this is a nice view. In reality, it doesn't happen.

Sure it doesn't happen when there there is the effort to ignore
government and to give it over to the pressure from the corporate
enties who are certainly *not* ignoring government, but doing what
they can to keep government and science away from anything that
will interfere with their bottom line profits.

>I would refer you to the accumulated work of several decades of public 
>choice theorists. They have pointed out, among other things, that while 
>there may be market failures, there are also "government failures." Just 
>because a person is a government employee does not automatically mean he 
>will look out for the "public interest" -- in fact, he's going to be 
>looking out for his own self-interest. History has shown that you can't 
>create a structure to isolate the "good" things without having "bad" things 
>-- and I think an unacceptable number of bad things -- follow.

I guess your "public choice theorists" whoever they are, at least
from your account, don't recognize that we wouldn't have interactive
computing, or Unix tools, or the Internet if not for government 
and the good role that it played in supporting science.

We would still have punch cards and stand alone computers and 
only the microsoft variety of corporate dominated operating system
with all its problems.

>Pie-in-the-sky rhetoric may have its place, but let's get down to cool 
>reality here for a moment. And let's not forget abuses like these:

No the pie-in-the-sky is actually those who have been preaching 
leave government to the corporate sector to enrich them and 
to leave the people without any public sector.

Good government takes effort - it takes citizens overseeing government,
it takes an active press that watches the abuse and challenges it.

These are some beginning tasks.

Maybe you are happy to cede all the institutions of society, especially
government to major corporate entities to have a field day with.

I am not happy to cede that without a challenge.

We need good government, government that benefits from the scientific
lessons that have made it possible to create the important computer
achievements of our time.

We need institutions that are appropriate for the greater oversight
over technology that a cybernetic society requires.

And surprisingly, we have something to learn from if we look at how
these new scientific achievements were created.

We need an institution inside the US government that will build
on the lessons of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO)
so that it can make it possible to scale the US portion of the Internet.

And a number of other countries also have government scientific institutions
that were created to develop computers and computer science. 

We need knowledge of these institutions and a way to pressure that,
at least in the US, the lessons of IPTO be summed up and used to 
create an appropriate entity to continue the needed computer science
leadership to support the continued scientific and technical development
of the Internet.

In the US we have had IPTO, we have had Bell Labs (when we still
had AT&T before the breakup). These have been premier scientific
institutions, in the case of IPTO, inside of government, and in 
the case of Bell Labs, supported by the requirements of the government
regulation on AT&T.

Regulation is part of the scientific development of government.

There are those that only want regulation that will benefit corporate
entities and they preach "no regulation" for the rest of us.

But that doesn't stop the regulation, only it makes it totally
in the interests of the corporate entities and leaves everyone
else at their mercy.

>>There is an infrastructure of the Internet that needs government

>Reasonable people may differ here. I'd rather the Net develop free of 
>government meddling.

I haven't seen any discussion challenging the need for government
protection for the infrastructure of the Internet.

To call protection "meddling" is not an argument or a form of 
discussion. It's the opposite. It acknoweldges there is no
good argument to say that you can put an infrastructure like
the infrastructure of the Internet, into the hands ofvested
interests and have any public benefit from that process.

That is what is happening with ICANN and should contain a lesson
that can be understood from this experience.

>>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.

>What, the same laudable "public sector" of government bureaucrats and 
>publicity-hungry legislators who gave us the Clipper Chip, the 
>Communications Decency Act, CALEA, proposals to ban unapproved encryption, 
>plans to wiretap a huge percentage of simultaneous telephone conversations, 
>the DMCA, the "copying software for your mom is a felony" NET Act, plans to 
>ban gambling online, plans to require banks to monitor customers for 
>"suspicious" activities, the creation of ICANN with a secret board 
>selection process approved by the White House, Secret Service databases 
>with your drivers' license photo surreptiously acquired from DMVs, Y2K 
>liability "immunization" for well-heeled corporations, plans to allow 
>secret searches of your home, ECHELONesque surveillance schemes, plans to 
>ban anonymity, treaties to limit privacy, restrictions on publication of 
>important chemical data online, plans to make it a crime to link to 
>drug-related info online, and a host of other schemes noteworthy only for 
>how pernicious they are?

What are you saying? Are you saying that government is only "pernicious"?

That we should let IBM and MCI make the rules and that will be the
solution for us?

Government is an institution that has evolved over a long period of
time. Obviously it needs the means for citizens to affect what
it is doing. That is a challenge to be taken up.

To claim that we shouldn't take up the challenge, to claim that
the creation of ICANN with a secret board selection process
because the US government took up to violate its own laws and 
processes with very little press oversight, is a sign of the problem
with your claim.

Obviously Wired and other computer press were needed to yell that
there is a corporate government control act that says that the US
government can't give public property and functions to the private
sector as the Clinton Administration set out to do in creating 

It would have been good for Wired and other computer press to 
report that there was an alternative proposal submitted for the 
protection of the Internet's infrastructure - my proposal.

It would have been helpful had they monitored the opposition and let 
the public know of the problems.

Unfortunately, instead there are those in the media and elsewhere
claiming that instead of monitoring and overseeing government,
we should ignore it.

I don't see the Wall Street Journal telling the Fortune 500 companies
to ignore government. That they shouldn't put any pressure
on government to do things in their interests.

Instead I see folks telling the public stay away from government.

There is a nice book called "Government and Science" by 
Don Price. It documents some of the efforts withnin the US
government over a long period of time to have institutions
in government and regulations by government that are scientifically
developed and that support the development of more public processes
and wealth. These include labor legislation, farming innovation
like the agricultural colleges, and support for scientific work
like the creation of ARPA.

The challenge is to take up to discuss how to get government to
do what is in the public interest, not to cede government to
the corporate vested interests.

>Sure, let's let those same folks "continue the development of the Net." 

My longer paper takes on some of the challenge of looking at a 
good institutional form that developed in government and trying 
to understand how it functioned and what happened with it.

That is what I am proposing is some of what is needed.

You don't comment on that, but ignore it and substitute examples
where there aren't scientific processes functioning.


The 5 part draft I have done so far which starts at:

(and continues with the other URL's given at the end of the first part)

merits serious examination and discussion, not flippant dismissal.

There is a serious problem to be solved, which has to do with
the protection of the Internet.

There may be disagreements about what to do about the problem,
but those who agree it is a real problem need to find some way
to discuss it.

And to figure out how to collaborate.

I am proposing that serious discussion of the draft paper I have
been working on is a start and would welcome folks finding ways
to help spread it around and get it out to those interested in 
this problem.


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