John Perry Barlow on Tue, 9 Jan 96 08:10 MET

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Re: The Disappearance of Public Space on the Net

At 12:51 AM 1/8/96, Jason Wehling wrote:
>On Sun, 7 Jan 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote:

>I have a couple questions and comments about this. First, I am currently
>doing research on a book I'm working on about the Internet as a tool for
>political activism. Part of the work I have done is looking for control
>of the Net. And what I've found doesn't look pretty.

You mean you have actually found points of broad control of the Net? If so,
I need to hear about them, since my job is to assure that they don't exist.
But I'm not finding any myself. Many aspire but few are capable.

>First of all, there has been a lot of talk about privatizing the Net.
>>From what I can gather, this is primarily focused on the backbone of the

The Net is not a vertibrate. There is no "backbone of the Net," and hasn't
been since the mid-80's. There are many backbones, most of them private,
some not-for-profit, some academic coalitions.

>This talk started many years ago, but two papers seem to me to be most
>important. First, was a memo entitled "Commercialization of the
>Internet", published in November 1990. It was a summary of a workshop
>with participants that included: Merit, RAND Corporation, NSF, AT&T, the
>U.S. Dept of Commerce, Bellcore, Digital Equipment, MCI, IBM and a number
>of Universities.

This workshop was a convening point for the now dead ANS network that I
referred to earlier. Among its conveners, only Merit and MCI remain still
credible players in building the Net. The best thing which came out of the
workshop, in which I was involved, was beginning the effort to rescind the
official ban on commerical traffic over the Net (which had, of course, been
taking place unofficially since the beginning.)

>   ANd second is the NII Agenda for Action that calls for
>the privatization of the Net. This has already begun.

Indeed it is complete.

>NSFnet was decommissioned back in late April, 1995. Instead of one
>federally funded backbone, there are currently four, private backbones,
>the coordinated by four regional NAPs (Network Access Points). From what I
>understand, these four:
>the New York NAP run by Sprint, the Chicago NAP run by Ameritech, the
>California NAP run by Pacbell and Bellcore and the Washington DC NAP run
>by MFS (Metropolitan Fiber Systems) are, in fact, megacorporations.

We seem to disagree on the basic architecture of the Net. Any of the
sub-NAP's can communicate directly with one another over other channels.
What about Alternet? What about Wiltel? What about Merit. I would also
question whether MFS is a megacorporation.

>Currently, NSF awarded the new vBNS (Very-High-Speed Backbone Network
>Service) program to MCI. Together NSF and MCI will be building a new
>backbone that is faster (155M/sec and later to 622M/sec) than the current
>T3 lines and would be exclusively used for high-volume research activities.

And it will be so bound up in federal bureaucracy that it will almost
impossible to get a packet over it. I watched its prototype, the so-called
I-Way, attempting to serve the recent National Supercomputing Conference in
San Diego. It was a total mess.

>MCI is also a megacorporation.

Ok. So, should they not be involved in packet transport? Who should build
the Net? Are governments somehow more trustworthy.

>Secondly, I'm curious about the demise of ANS. I hadn't read that before.
>Where can I get information about that? I'm curious about the details.
>Also, what happened to the for-profit wing of ANS: ANS CO+RE? Is that
>still around and what does it do if it is?

I don't know that I'd be qualified to give you the details, but I can
probably point you the right way. Steve Wolff would be good. I believe that
CO+RE is also dead. Indeed, I'm not sure it was ever alive in any
functional way.

>It seems to me to be obvious that the Net is moving away from it's
>somewhat chaotic, but nevertheless centralized and public backbone of NSF
>to a more decentralized, but nonetheless private backbone of the Regional
>Bells and Long-distance providers.

I don't think so. It looks to me as if MCI and Sprint are playing a much
larger role than the RBOC's. But again, we're just talking about the
American Net, which is important to remember.


John Perry

John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

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