Ming the Mechanic:
Saving the net from the pipe owners

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Saving the net from the pipe owners2005-11-19 14:12
by Flemming Funch

Doc Searls has an excellent and long article, "Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes". Basically the net as we know it is in grave danger if the large telco carriers that own most of the pipes it runs on manage to get their way. You might think that the net is just this common free space where we all can share and communicate. But some very large companies think it is merely their property, and their delivery mechanism for their content that you'll have to pay for. And if we don't watch it, they might get their way, by getting their business plans put into law. Well, U.S. law at least, but that unfortunately sets the tone for how things work. This quote from Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC, epitomises the problem:
Q: How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google, MSN, Vonage, and others?

A: How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

He was asked this, as far as I remember, because SBC started blocking VoIP (voice conversations over the net) on their network. Which they think they have a right to do, because they don't make money off of them. Well, they do - people pay for their internet connection, but SBC also sells phone service, and they don't want competition. So, where we think we're free to do whatever it is technically possible to do on the net, these guys have in mind to only let you do things they get paid a cut of. I.e. they regard the net as the vehicle for big companies to deliver paid content to you, the consumer, rather than as your way to peruse the information you're interested in.

One of the many good points in Doc's article is that the battle is about semantics. Not "just semantics", but it is semantics in the sense that one side is somewhat succeeding in positioning the discussion to be about ownership and property. They "own" the pipes, the copyrights, the content, and everybody else are freeloades who'd want to rip it off for free. And law, particularly in the U.S., tends to be on the side of property owners. Here's from a previous article, particularly about copyright, discussing that beyond the legal and political contexts there is the metaphorical:
The third is metaphorical. I believe Hollywood won because they have successfully repositioned copyright as a property issue. In other words, they successfully urged the world to understand copyright in terms of property. Copyright = property may not be accurate in a strict legal sense, but it still makes common sense, even to the Supreme Court. Here's how Richard Bennett puts it:

The issue here isn't enumeration, or the ability of Congress to pass laws of national scope regarding copyright; the copyright power is clearly enumerated in the Constitution. The issue, at least for the conservative justices who sided with the majority, is more likely the protection of property rights. In order to argue against that, Lessig would have had to argue for a communal property right that was put at odds with the individual property right of the copyright holder, and even that would be thin skating at best. So the Supremes did the only possible thing with respect to property rights and the clearly enumerated power the Constitution gives Congress to protect copyright.

Watch the language. While the one side talks about licenses with verbs like copy, distribute, play, share and perform, the other side talks about rights with verbs like own, protect, safeguard, protect, secure, authorize, buy, sell, infringe, pirate, infringe, and steal.

This isn't just a battle of words. It's a battle of understandings. And understandings are framed by conceptual metaphors. We use them all the time without being the least bit aware of it. We talk about time in terms of money (save, waste, spend, gain, lose) and life in terms of travel (arrive, depart, speed up, slow down, get stuck), without realizing that we're speaking about one thing in terms of something quite different. As the cognitive linguists will tell you, this is not a bad thing. In fact, it's very much the way our minds work.

But if we want to change minds, we need to pay attention to exactly these kinds of details.

"The Commons" and "the public domain" might be legitimate concepts with deep and relevant histories, but they're too arcane to most of us. Eric Raymond has told me more than once that the Commons Thing kinda rubs him the wrong way. Communist and Commonist are just a little too close for comfort. Too social. Not private enough. He didn't say he was against it, but he did say it was a stretch. (Maybe he'll come in here and correct me or enlarge on his point.) For many other libertarians, however, the stretch goes too far. Same goes for conservatives who subscribe to the same metaphorical system in respect to property.

So the work we have cut out for us isn't just legal and political. It's conceptual. Until we find a way to win that one, we'll keep losing in Congress as well as the courts.

Doc wrote another excellent article with David Weinberger, called The World of Ends, essentially arguing that the net is a neutral medium that connects up a lot of ends. It is about connecting everything to everything, with zero distance. The things to connect might be us having a conversation, or it can be you making a purchase in a store. Doesn't really matter. The net itself is stupid, and just acts as the connecting substrate. It is a place, to connect up end users. And that's what works. If anybody succeeds in re-defining it as merely their distribution mechanism, which they can slice up and monetize like they feel like, it starts not working any longer.
While the Net's nature is a world-wide place, the Web's nature is a world-wide publishing system. The Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist who wanted a simple way documents could be published and read, anywhere in the world, without restriction by physical location or underlying transport system. That's why it has hypertext protocols, "languages" and "formatting" standards. It's also why we "write", "author" and "mark up" "documents" called "pages" and "files" which we "post", "publish" or "put up" so others can "index", "catalog" and "browse" them.

To sum up, the Net has all these natures:

1. transport system (pipes)
2. place (or world)
3. publishing system

--and others as well. But those aren't at war with one another, and that's what matters most.

Right now #1 is at war with #2 and #3, and that war isn't happening only in the media and in congressional hearing rooms. It's happening in our own heads. When we talk about "delivering content to consumers through the Net", rather than "selling products to customers on the Net", we take sides with #1 against #2. We unconsciously agree that the Net is just a piping system. We literally devolve: our lungs turn to gills, our legs turn into flippers, and we waddle back into the sea--where we are eaten by sharks.

Hopefully it doesn't end up happening. Law makers might see the light and not just hand ownership of the net to a few corporation. We might collectively understand the matter clearly enough to not allow it. And there might be technological solutions that take it in a different direction, and bypass the monopolies. Community wifi networks, for example.

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19 Nov 2005 @ 16:19 by vaxen : ARC...
Advocating and saving the Net is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers and regulators aren't screwing up the Net because they're "Friends of Bush" or "Friends of Hollywood" or liberals or conservatives. They're doing it because one way of framing the Net–as a transport system for content–is winning over another way of framing the Net–as a place where markets and business and culture and governance can all thrive…..We need to make clear that the Public Domain is the market's underlying geology–a place akin to the ownerless bulk of the Earth–rather than a public preserve in the midst of private holdings. This won't be easy, but it can be done…..We need to stress the fact that the primary "end" in the Net's end-to-end architecture is the individual. The Net's success is due far more to the freedoms enjoyed by individuals than to the advantages enjoyed by large companies whose existence predates the Net.

The Civil War was not about Slavery of black people. It was about changing business models.

It seems patently true. Lincoln didn't want to free the slaves, as he repeatedly emphasized. Clearly the war was just about the raw excercise of sheer power. It was a war of the federal system against the people of the states, in which several of the states allied with the federal system. To insist that emancipation of slaves was a significant motivating factor in the prosecution of that war is to ignore the statements of the principals involved, preferring the mythology promoted by the brutal victor to justify their crimes over and against the simple and plain truths of historical fact.

I totally agree - between the various "narrowcast" methods the general public has at its disposal, we can each be a carrier for a "new" internet. Let the telcos take this one, let them get complacent with a tasty treat; in the background, a new freedom grows from wireless.


Doc Searls Article on Saving the Internet.



GANDALF aims at demonstrating the simultaneous provision of Gb/s data rates to wireline and wireless access nodes (AN), employing a novel optical feeder concept. The proposed optical feeder employs a dual-drive Mach-Zehnder modulator at the central station (CS) operated in such a way that is possible to recover simultaneously the transmitted broadband data directly at base-band or intermediate frequency (BB/IF) and modulated onto a RF carrier. This architecture allows therefore to remotely feed heterogeneous (wireline and wireless) AN with very interesting features when compared to previous approaches based in fibre-radio techniques. The optical feeder architecture proposed by GANDALF allow a significant cost reduction with regard to other approaches as alleviate the bandwidth requirements at the transmitter end and simplify the electronics at both transmitting and receiving ends. At the ANs low-cost optoelectronic technologies (simplified hardware and reduced power consumption configurations) will be investigated, for example based in the use of electroabsorption-modulator transceivers (EAT) or Asymmetric Fabry-Perot Modulators (AFPM).

The proposed CS-AN link configuration is compliant with core network technologies such as DWDM and optical packet-switching. The offered bandwidth allows the provision of multiservice and multiband applications satisfying future requirements of access networks to cope with the expected evolution of user and application requirements. Other feasible application is the implementation of disaster recovery infrastructure.

One of the main targets of GANDALF is to identify on-going standards that employ modulation formats that are suitable to be employed both at BB/IF and RF frequency bands, such as DOCSIS or DVB-S, or to provide prospects to allow this heterogeneous functionality. Once pairs of such standards/technologies are identified, their simultaneous provision at BB/IF and RF and interoperability will be demonstrated both in a lab platform and under a small field-trial.



19 Nov 2005 @ 17:20 by swanny : Ownership
Syncho that you bring this up ming
I was just debating the other day with myself
on as to who owns the net.
Well theres the internet which is the hardware aspect
and then the middle ware aspect which I suppose it a
fuzzy ware aspect and then the WWW or world wide web
which is sort of a software or digital or vaporware area.
I didn't bring it up though cause I was .... well not sure why
I though it was ..... to contencious to discuss.

Is it public or private domain... well I suppose there's degrees....
as to who pays for it I suppose....
well.... society humanity companies government....
Is it perhaps a "Public Utility" then....
But a "Global Public Utility" I suppose that would
make it United Nations stuff...  

19 Nov 2005 @ 17:22 by swanny : Global Public Utility?
If it is a global public utility then how
is it regulated and by whom or should it be
regulated or is it regulated?
Or should it be "selfregulated"?

Just as I thought a "can of worms" or...  

19 Nov 2005 @ 17:31 by swanny : Bombshell
This is a bombshell issue I think...

or suspect

Technorati Link = http://www.technorati.com/  

19 Nov 2005 @ 17:39 by swanny : Unprecidented...
Hmm This is "unprecidented" perhaps
there has never in planetary history really ever been
a "global public utility" .... as far as I can google...

So what of it?
Who owns global public utilities?

and is it a "democratic global public utility"?

and Democratic in the sense of "the greatest
good for the greatest number"...  

19 Nov 2005 @ 17:50 by bushman : Hmm
I didnt find where he talks about, useing the power grid as the main carrier of data, once they got that going, it will balance out the pipe owners, makeing the net the public roads and hyways. Then lets say you cant find what your looking for, it would be ok to pay google to find what your looking for, we still would have the net connection to the world and could contact anyone for free, except for those sites/companies that provide a service. There are several problems with power grid internet, one being that it will interfere with 2 way radio, from AM bands to emergency services/ham radio. Then theres the big bro problem, with the tech we have now, micro cams and mics, they could easily spy on people. How will they get a cam in your bed room, a common worry for those that dont want big bro in thier bedrooms, lol. But we have clock radios and tvs all manner of appliances in our homes, pluged into the power grid that is always on. And its not like they dont know where you bought your apliances, and with rf id and all, they could just dial up your tv like lojack gps or something, so big bro might not be watching you till someone gives them a tip that you sell drugs or like little girls, local law enforcment would have a ball, lol. But thats my view, once they have a common free public carrier which at this point in time can only be the power grid, then we can still be a public force, till we have to search google, or need to go to an info store. How will they bill? They could tack on a tax to your electric bill, or have a blanket ISP tax that you basicly buy your IP#, and then pay a penny per usefull search, a penny per email sent, not recived. But once you own your IP# you can talk to anyone in the world you want for free, the system has your ID no matter where you plug in your PC, so would fit national security issues. So everyone gets high speed net on the powergrid for free, but would be the ultamate total loss of privacy, at the same time everyone that has a PC can communicate with anyone they want as usual. Other than a site that wants you to pay them. Theres lots of ways to bill or tax for a service if the main carrier is free to connect to. I see this as the direction the net will take, you turn on your brand new PC or laptop and your near powerlines or pluged into an electrical outlet, your on the web automaticly, a window pops up telling you to update your AV/firewall and OS if it needs to be updated, all right when you turn the thing on. Maybe a slot built into your machine, for your internet drivers licence, like you have to go to the DMV, you would go to the DWWW, take a internet edicate test or something, lol.  

19 Nov 2005 @ 21:46 by ming : Pipes
It is actually kind of shocking how vulnerable the net is if one looks at it from a certain angle.

Even technies will normally pride themselves by knowing that the net automatically routes around any kind of damage. You know, the TCP/IP packets, they could go any of a number of paths, and if one isn't available, they just go another way. But, really, there aren't all that many paths at the core of it. There are some big pipes of a few companies that "peer" with each other. And we don't think much about it, except for once in a while when two of them get into some kind of argument with each other, and turn off their peering point, and suddenly a whole bunch of people can't communicate with a whole bunch of other people.

And the DNS system, all run from a small number of root servers. If somebody turns them off, nothing would work any longer. And the domain registration. The .com register in the exclusive hands of an unscrupulous and at times incompetent corporation like Verisign, which keeps trying to think up new scams for tricking people into paying money for nothing.

The very best would be if D-I-Y wireless networks really were practical on a wide scale. If I put up my little router with an antenna, and somebody down the street does too, and we gradually cover all areas that need to be covered. Just seems like there some key pieces missing for that to act as The Internet.  

19 Nov 2005 @ 23:48 by swanny : Live CDs
I've been playing around with live OP system cds
What they are is mostly linux os versions that
have an operating system on a read only cd...
the beauty is that it can't be hacked I think
because it doesn't operate off the hard drive
actually it doesn't involve the hard drive at all.
The CD puts some of the "working" structure into
the RAM drive.... I suppose someone could hack into
your RAM drive and you need a good chunck of ram
but I don't really see how....
You can still store data or pages or text or music to your
hard drive though....
Its actually kind of neat....
and gives you a kind of bullet proof operating system.


my favorite at the moment is Ubuntu  

20 Nov 2005 @ 00:07 by swanny : Ubuntu...
Nice thing about Ubuntu
is it is Cross platform
I've had it up and running on both my Imac
and PC x86 and it autonetworked me to a browser
I had a little trouble though with the latest version

Ubuntu Link = http://www.ubuntulinux.org/

You can download a "bootable" iso cd and burn it so you can
"boot" from CD to operational.... to browser to net...

simply amazing what they've done


20 Nov 2005 @ 18:35 by lugon : minimalistic internet?
So what would we need if we wanted to have a minimalistic internet, one who would survive, say, a pandemic flu? I guess it needs electricity (off-grid), antenae, software, computers - what else? Just imagine going back to usenet or whatever, but a very resilient thing - VoIP, yes, but also a handful of howtos and meme-sets ...

In my mind, it boils down to a number of howtos + a number of human networks to make it happen.

How far are we from that? Has anyone collected all the elements for that vision already? http://www.globalvillages.info/index.php/TheEmergencyToolshed/Pandemic  

20 Nov 2005 @ 19:51 by swanny : Well
I've bought a solar panel but it would only give about
an hour of power a week....depending on the battery
and I've got the live "boot" Ubuntu mac and pc Cd that powers up from
a rom drive and installs on the ram drive
and access most networks but I was just trying to figure
the wireless and network angle... so far you can by a cheap
board cast system that doesn't need licensing for about
$1000.00 but I'm not to sure on the nuts and bolts of it
and it only has maybe a 25km range and works probably on
am radio band. I'm not sure what the logistics would be
if you were trying to put an "unstandardized" network work
together.... and about this voip thing ... i'm not sure why
everyones so keen on it as right now if the power goes down
you're still gettin a 9 volt signal from the phone lines
with voip your power and computer goes down....no nothing.  

20 Nov 2005 @ 20:06 by swanny : Small City Network
So with just some solar panels, converter and battery
and a boot operating system and a small band AM
broadcaster and networking hardware
you could probably set up a small
local wireless network for about or say 3 or 4 thousand per
user or node and that would be dirt cheap with jury rigged
recycled stuff and such. To do it proper you'd probably be
lookin at 10 grand per node for a small 25 km radius localnet.

It would be harder to broadcast the distances between
cities... that would take a real community effort.  

23 Nov 2005 @ 10:49 by rayon : Always good a read
when many know their subject, look expert to me. How strong is a community anyway, the strength and inspiration factor will keep it going, maybe friends in hi places, one to one lobbying? Chaos (the dark ages) may look a good option especially while being an expert, which I am not.  

24 Nov 2005 @ 04:52 by jonah @ : irridium satilite systm belongs to the p
also all the roads rivers airs of creation,the Sovreigns United Nation circle of elders decided 1998,govt agreed in principl ,god averted wormwood and the stars didnt fall out of the sky....we own if folks .all the expired patent stuff belongs to the peoples union of SUN...the elders are only waiting to be asked..every one is allready a member each gets one pound of seed of the tree of life.as credit ..social sacurity..medical help..transport..the dreaming trails are our survival trail ..as industry runs out of recource we buy back your share ,,,no one can loose .you allready owm one pound of seed..and growing more..@5 percent till you wake up and ask your elder matriac to apply to the admission circle 7 1 2006  

20 Apr 2016 @ 21:05 by Janine @ : BtqoWSBjoXDckCbKzjV
I'm out of league here. Too much brain power on dipasly!  

Other stories in
2012-01-24 00:50: Intellectual Property
2011-11-03 16:51: Seeing the world through the Internet
2009-06-11 18:53: Blogging/Microblogging and work
2008-02-23 17:19: Web 1, 2, 3 and 4
2008-02-22 11:07: Illusion
2008-01-09 22:45: A Communication Model
2007-12-02 20:41: Give One Get One
2007-10-25 21:47: Static or dynamic web metaphors
2007-09-18 22:54: Rethinking blogs
2007-07-04 23:59: Scrutiny of Information

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