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The Internet

Innovation, Regulation and The Internet 123

Thanks to Lawrence Lessig for pointing the online version of his latest piece. It's entitled "Innovation, Regulation, and The Internet". As always, the piece is well thought, this time dealing with issues of regulation (duh) over the Internet. But the position is tricky than one would think -give it a full read, and add your thoughts below.
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Innovation, Regulation and The Internet

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  • Smooches to you too.

    What I am trying to say is that end to end network design is not inclusive of concepts such as QoS (which I happen to find somewhat interesting). This is relevant in terms of the story because Lessig raises the end-to-end design as a "good" thing, and yet it conflicts with QoS which I happen to think is a "good" thing.

    Of course it has _nothing_ to do with fully private LAN/WAN's, but there are many firms who jump over public lines for various portions of their net and they either have to move QoS to a layer above TCP, keep the policies local geographicly, or just blow the bucks and lease lines coast to coast.

    Of course, you're probably all over this, but not everyone is. If you are looking for more from slashdot, maybe you should instead try the comp.sys tree or something.

    Best wishes- JJL

  • Hmmm...if my local Data Dept does as good a job providing me net access as my local Roads Dept does in providing me physical access, then there's going to be pretty big potholes in my "onramp to the Internet Superhighway"!

    How would you encourage the quality of service in the last mile? What options would you have if the service was not being provided to your satisfaction?

    Where I live, the street always has potholes, and the road is always the last in the neighborhood to be plowed in the winter. I see nothing to convince me that a local Data Dept would do any better job...

  • I personally would rather subsidize the electricity and not pay later at the grocery store, wouldn't you?

    No, and here's the basic difference between those who have faith in the market and those who don't - I don't pretend, or trust anyone who pretends, to be able to predict these effects and head them off.

    Thus, I think it's just in general a bad idea to attempt to tamper with a market when the outcome and effects thereof are unknown (which they pretty much always are).


    --
    Swampfox
    Real Hacker (tm) Wanna-be
  • Go buy a Echostar Dish Network [dishnetwork.com] satellite dish like I did. They're independent, not owned by any of the cable companies. I've been a customer for over 3 years. Highly recommended. The minidish companies are doing so well because the cable cos gave them an opening with their lousy service. The free market works!

    You are one spoiled bastard if you think TV is a right. It's a toy, 'kay?

    Read up on a concept called "property rights".

  • They do "give something back". They pay $billions in taxes. (Which are a large part of the bills we pay, btw. Ever look at those "franchise fees" and what not on your cable/telephone bills?)

    If companies unprotected by a government sanctioned monopoly don't play nice, they invite competition. Sometimes even the monopolies get whacked by new technology (minidish vs. cable). Having government bureaucrats dictate prices kills most of the incentive to innovate, and s-l-o-ws down whatever survives to a crawl.
  • "I'd like to see the moderator to whom this piece of data was "informative"."
    I gave a moment's thought to what kind of person that might be and concluded that, no, you really *don't* want to see them.
  • Anonymous considers "30-40% of gross salary including the non income taxes" to be suspiciously low. Quite reasonably, he suggests we take the total tax burden for a year for all taxes and divide it by the total income to get a real rate.

    I live in Ontario, Canada, a famously high-tax jurisdiction for North America, and am in the highest tax bracket. (To be fair, I should comment that I do get more paid services for my taxes than Americans do).

    My tax rate, calculated as Anonymous suggests by my tax progran, is 29%. To this add PST and GST, which includes all the hidden business taxes that I contribute to, and my rate is <= 44%.

    I have every expectation that U.S. jurisdictions will indeed fall into the 30-40% range...

    --dave

  • I don't think I need to tell you how different shoes are from an education. Nor do I need to tell you that there are many parts of the world where shoes still are, if not a luxury, still something not taken for granted. I can point out the long-term economic, political and social effects of eviscerated and non-existent public education systems throughout the Third World, though: I don't think you'd want to live in those places. I just want to know how you would make democracy work in illiterate populations.
  • True, many people have misgivings about such service, given their experience with some other gov't agencies (as you have).

    But look at it this way: currently, about the only "data" service that gets fixed promptly is telephone, and I'm almost positive this is because it's regulated as a "critical" service. Also, in many areas, the Water, Gas, Sewer, and/or Electricity are already local government owned, and I've got pretty good experience with my local Water/Sewer service fixing that right away...

    Ever tried to get your cable fixed after a break? Or what about the (non-existant) service guarranty that comes with your DSL? Point is, the current "last-mile" providers of Internet and Cable service aren't doing any decent job right now, and I don't see them getting a whole lot better soon.

    The advantage of having your local town run the Data Dept is that it's local - your city taxes pay for it, you elect local people to manage it, and it's almost certainly open to public feedback and criticism. The best model I can thing of is the Water&Sewer service - you get public meetings, they are funded by city taxes, and the City Council dictates their terms of operation, all of which are open to traditional political methods of influence. How much influence do you really think you can have on the current companies?

    yes, it's not a free lunch. I also thing that you're not giving government credit for doing some things right, when the impetus (and demand) is there for them to do it.

    I'd take a local Data Dept. over any of the RBOCs any day.

    -Erik

  • Pizza delivery is very difficult without phones or phone lines.

    Seth
  • IMHO the most significant concern expressed in this article dealt with when the author was talking to staff people working for the Senate: (Note: the omitted sentences support these main points -- I'm skipping them for brevity):
    ...the more I described this ideal of end-to-end and its relationship to open access and the principles of the Internet, the more impatient these staffers became.

    A deal would be struck, I was told. At least the major ISPs would get access to the cable network....access would be granted on terms set by the network owners... This is Washington's version of the Internet. There isn't a problem so long as the big guys can buy access.

    In other words, the Senate's view on these things is going to be driven by one thing: big, corporate money. Unless [jaded mode on] and possibly even if [jaded mode off] those of us who are clued into the issue make enough noise to prevent another important area of web access from being sold to the highest corporate bidders, who are definitely not interested in the public good.

  • f I hear it again I'm going to puke.

    Heh. I'd like to see the moderator to whom this piece of data was "informative".

    Kaa
  • Point two (and really, the entire article) is incorrect. Regulation is not necessary. AT&T and others can only block me from using "illegal" or unallowed equipment on their lines via one of two things:

    First, lawsuits. If judges were not morons, they would throw out the cases. Since this isn't the case, we need law to force judges to act right.

    Second, by extending monopolies to companies to tear up our yards. In my county, one cable company has the right to provide cable. In return for this monopoly, they provide the county with NOTHING. As a matter of fact, when they recently asked for the county to allow them to charge customers a franchise fee (typically goes back to the local govt) the local government didn't require anything of them. No payment back. No promise to upgrade to digital cable. No promise to wire schools. Nothing. They just said "charge us more".

    Anyway, the point is, the only reason regulation is needed now is to correct prior regulation and stupidity. Regulation is always bad. The correct answer (especially to the original author) is to pass a law that repeals prior corporate/governmental stupidity.
  • You don't need regulation for quality pump gas. You need competent courts. If I buy what is marked as 89 octane for $1.50/gal, and I really get only 86 octane, and because of flaws in the pump I only get 2 quarts for $1.50, then I can sue. No need to write new legislation.

    Furthermore, more than 50% of the population of the US lives in cities. Therefore any solution that helps those who live in rural areas is a form of welfare. Plus, like the rural electric co-ops, there isn't (or, in my beautiful, non-existant world there isn't:) anything stopping the formation of rural telco co-ops, rural isp co-ops, etc.
  • You may want to pay for low-cost net, cable, phone access for people that live in the rural areas, but I don't appreciate it. It is a noble idea that I believe in, but, BUT, once you give the OK to tax for a limited time so the telco/cableco can recoup costs for equipment the tax NEVER goes away. My home phone bill still has universal access surcharges and when I had a cell phone there was one there too.

    There is a story going around talk radio recently that the original tax on phones was to pay for the Spanish-American War. I'm sure that debt has been paid for a long time, but the tax is still there, just repurposed. The other thing I remember from a high school history class is that the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) got money from phone users to fund social programs in rural Tenn. Last time I looked there are phone lines running to rural US, current billing should reflect actual cost.

    I like to help out other people just like the next guy, but people have to realize that they lose certain things when they move far from the city and one of those is cheap high-speed access. I'm sick of paying the bill for someone else's bad decisions.
  • Mail order transactions may not be federally taxed, but in Washington state at least (and probably others) there is a "Use Tax" owed on goods purchased from out of state on which sales tax wasn't payed, and this tax rate is equal to the sales tax rate. Maybe you don't pay this (I don't know who does) but if you don't, you're technically evading taxes.
  • Lessig is very astute, in noticing that regulation can be used to either promote or restrict innovation, depending on how it is applied. He argues that since the most successful network models we have use regulation that promote innovation, any future networks should promote it as well. Only open access networks (where access is *regulated* to be open) have what it takes to survive in the free market.

    Here's one way of looking at it -- Regulation is like Cholesterol. There's Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol. Too much of either will kill you, but if you have a lot of the good and very little of the bad, you're in good shape.

    And that's bad news for broadband networks. If they truly do put into place regulations that stifle innovation and give power to rich corporations, then the broadband networks will be severely hobbled when it comes time for them to compete in the free market. Yes, it'll have incredible throughput rates, but if I can't use telnet to a shell account through it, I will never use broadband service. Other hobbles may be placed on the broadband networks by the companies who own them (ISPs collecting personal data? Auto-Net-Nanny monitoring? Geographic limitations on what web pages you can visit? Restrictions on what brands of software are allowed to send packets through the net?).

    These shortsighted companies may make broadband access painful for the consumer, to the point where dialup access is more attractive. I guarantee that they'll push the limit of what they can get away with -- such is the nature of corporations. So broadband's bandwidth advantage will be handicapped by add-ons. Will this handicapping be so extreme that the free market chooses to stick with dialup access? Broadband will evolve very slowly, as innovation on it will be restricted. Will some innovation in dialup access (or other access) cause broadband to fall behind? Will it ultimately be forced to evolve into something more open or die? Only time will tell.

    Unless, as Lessig suggests, we start right now and have the government mandate that broadband use open access and other innovation-promoting regulations. Then we can jump onto broadband access right away, without fear, and see what it's truly capable of.
  • I think that you are basically wrong here. The internet will be 'regulated' anyway, it's just a question by whom. Should it be companies such as access providers, backbone providers, hosting companies and whatnot, or should it be the government?

    I believe the government has a moral obligation to step in and make sure that there are basic rules by which everyone has to abide such that internet access and use is fair for everyone. If we let the 'market' forces decide, the outcome might be far less than desirable.

    In the past five years as the internet has been increasingly commercialized, I haven't seen things develop for the better. Take streaming audio as a example. Do you think that the prevailing protocols, Realaudio and MS Audio provide much of a choice for the consumer and/or competitor? Are they best of breed? Are they able to be developed further by competitors if the originating company folds or looses interest?
    Sure, there's mp3 streaming, but that's about all there is to open, clean, unencumbered (is it really? what with Fraunhofer patents?) standards.

    Any commercial outfit out there has the bottomline closest to its heart. Many times it helps the bottomline to keep the customer happy, but not always. When switching costs become too high customer satisfaction is a non-issue, and companies will readily give up their efforts to keep you and me happy. Some will then screw you over big time and not care one bit, as long as the bucks keep coming in.

    You may be as cynical about present day politics and governments as I am, but government regulations need to be in place to protect us from being exploited by companies that have the size and power to do so. I would qualify that by demanding that regulation needs to be minimal and geared towards ensuring fairness, openness and most importantly ability to adapt to changing needs.
  • The perspective that I was trying to potray is taxes are almost always bad. To almost every tax situation there is a better answer. I am in favor of regulation in very extreme circumstances. The telephone is one of them. Instead of the Government taxing, the government should regulate by saying, "All your customers have to get the service at the same price no matter where they are." Leave it up to the tele. Co. to rase rates accordingly to make up for the cost difference. This is almost the same thing as taxation but with out the government getting its greedy hand into things. It is also more efficient because now there is no money exchanging the hands of a third party.

    Also the comment that I was referring to...
    6. The only other regulation we need is guaranteed low-cost access for anyone, like basic telephone service. No matter where they live in rural or remote areas. Tax the high-speed access people for this. Yeah, it's taxes. Deal with it.

    Is saying that the high-speed access people should be taxed. If one internet user is taxed they all should be taxed, not just the high-bandwith ones.

  • Guarantees on services means more regulation not less. If the government keeps to just making sure there is open access, then free market principles will ensure that service is up to par. If I can have my choice of providers then the one I choose will have to keep me happy.

    An interesting concept, but not true in an oligopolic situation such as exists nowadays. Service guarantees, such as those used for phone service (where they have to install your phone and get it working in 10 days or give you a free cell phone until they do), work quite well. These are enforced by the government regualators.

    For someone in a city, your idea sounds good. But this is only some of the population. Those in suburbs have no services to choose from, and those in rural areas have even less choice (e.g. none).

    Regulation is not always bad. Regulations should be minimal and should not get into the specifics of the technology, but require that advertised services are installed and functional in a realistic working time. We depend on these for things such as the pump at a gas station delivering the gas at the price marked, in the quantity you pay for - before we had fake pump prices and pumps that delivered less than they said. The same goes for electrical and many other services. You just don't notice these, because you take them for granted.

    As to local counties - I'm talking National.

  • Actually, his point seemed to be that we're all up a creek unless we can figure out a way to get the government to keep broadband as open as the internet has been up to now.

    Right. And, contrary to certain people, who seem never to have run a business (which I have), government does nothing for free. I don't disagree with attempts to minimize the impact of regulatory authorities, or their scope, but if they do it for free, some other taxpayer is paying for it. And if you don't like it, this has been the case for millennia.

  • Saying this is like saying, "I live in a remote part of America. There is no pizza place that will deliver to me. So tax the people that live in highly populated ares that have many pizza delivery options so I can have pizza delivery too."

    Except we're not talking about pizza. We're talking about telecom, and we tax telephone service to provide basic telephone service to rural areas and to retirees who don't make poverty level incomes. In this day and age, the Net is the barrier to poor people improving their skills - if they don't have it, they can't participate.

    I have a DSL line into my apartment. I pay more than a dialup line because I have more bandwith. I am paying more for more. I shouldn't have to pay more (for more) and more (taxes so someone remote can have it too). That is the Robin Hood mentatility. Rob from the rich to give to the poor. That is socalist to the extreme. Kinda like America's tax system.

    I have DSL in two houses, cable modem as well, and a cell phone with a high minute allowance. I pay these taxes too. And if you don't like America's tax system, live somewhere else like Britain. I think you'll find they tax you more in almost any other country.

  • Mr Lessig writes as if the Internet and any broadband access to it is owned, situated in and controlled entirely by Americans, under US law.

    It might as well be. If it isn't, our government will act as if it is, so it really doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, we'll do it anyway ...

    If his arguments were phrased to start with "The UK, Germany and Japan will have an economic advantage over us if they have end-to-end and we don't, because..." I'm sure the legislators will listen up!

    No, they won't. You forget that the US has always been, by default, isolationist. It's only recently that we got any world news here at all, and it's still US-centric in reporting. If you don't impact the US, you might as well not exist from our elected officials' viewpoint.

  • Be serious. Of course they will impose regulations. Why ? Because they have the power to do it.

    Exactly my main point. People have got to stop thinking that they will actually stop regulation of the Net or the imposition of taxes on e-commerce. Both are already happening in other countries and laws are already being written in the US as well. Wishing for a perfect free world won't make it happen.

    Furthermore, the main internet providers are in US. Which gives the US govt the possibility of gaining a real control over an international system. Impressive, isn't it ? Does the word manipulation mean anything to you ? And it's even cheaper than all the more or less visible agencies. Not to mention military actions.

    Which is why it will happen.

    Is this moral ? Probably not. Are we going to gain something from this ? Yeah, right !

    And then you point out that government actually affects both MSFT and IBM before it.

    Regulations can be good, if they stay out of the censorship aspect and they work on providing a basic level of service requirement, as well as a basic level of access. Beyond this, they probably will cause more harm then good.

    I've had a lot of posters post negative comments over my viewpoint that these will happen. I am willing to bet money on it. And I will win.

    My point is, one can help ensure that the resulting regulations are mostly beneficial and promote competition. Or one can waste time pretending it won't happen.

  • Now, it looks like net access could come to be controlled by the broadband network owners. This would be bad. This is not what helped the net grow and thrive. This is why we need regulation of the broadband providers, just as we had regulation of the phone companies. The benefits would seem to greatly outweigh the cost.

    Exactly. I own stock in many of the companies which would like to control it. I get nice reports in the mail about how they will control it. They spend a lot of money trying to do this.

    We need to realize that our own freedom depends on them not limiting access to broadband, or the Net, or the main trunks. We need to be sure that corporate customers in downtown urban centers don't get cheaper service for massive bandwidth than residential customers with minimal bandwidth. We all need both upload and download bandwidth and we need to be sure that all of us have the same basic opportunity to get a certain basic level of it. We need to be sure that corporations don't get installations with same day service, while suburban residential customers order installation and are not told that it will take them three months to get around to installing it.

  • Zero regulation and zero taxation? What makes you so special? When you buy something in person, you pay taxes. When you buy it on the net, you should also pay taxes. Maybe lower taxes (a good idea), but where do you think roads, schools, jails, courts, and looney bins get paid from?

    If you don't like it, move to another country. And start paying higher taxes...

  • It is because of people like you that UNFAIR taxation is inevitable -- commie.

    People like me served in the Army. People like me pay taxes. People like me have built roads, airports. And people like me don't whine about it.

    Shakespeare said there is nothing more certain than Death and Taxes. It's going to happen, no matter how much you complain. So get on with your life.

  • Or would you rather he moved into the city and brought milk prices up to those comparable with liquor. The same thing would happen to the price of bread, cereal, anything with soy in it and most vegetables. I personally would rather subsidize the electricity and not pay later at the grocery store, wouldn't you?

    Wrong. If DC stopped subsidizing rural phone/electricity/internet access those farmers that really want those things would pay the market value for what they cost in rural areas. Yes in the short run this would really hurt some farmers, and drive some out of business (and into the cities where utils are cheaper) the next growing season with less produce being sold we would see a price increase for food and stuff in urban areas (that reflected the new higher costs of farming) but it would only be paid by those who consume food products not by those who use phones. For every other business in the country utility costs are part of doing business and factor into production costs and eventually price. I don't see any reason why it should be any different for the farming business. Besides we'll probably end up paying less in the long run if we let the market handle the allocation of resources rather than the government simply because of government overhead and innefficiency. That and by subsidising the regional monopolies service to rural areas we are actually preventing any competitors from developing an effective low cost method of getting quality service to rural areas.

  • "Your ability to participate in the economy and to access public services is not hampered by not having pizza delivery."

    Is a pizza joint not part of the economy? As for public services, I don't see what's so fundementally different between a telephone and a pizza. Without a telephone, it's harder to communicate; without food life is impossible. Of course, there are other foods besides pizza to eat, but there are also other means of communication than a phone. Would I rather go without pizza or a phone? Pizza for sure! But the fact that I value phone service more than pizza service doesn't give me the "right" to a phone. The right to a phone simply means the right to force someone else to give it to me, regardless of the cost to them. This would be more obvious if the government just gave me a machinegun and let me do the forcing myself. What makes it harder to see the robbery involved on my behalf is that the machinegun is wielded secondhand for me by the police force, which is what would be used agsinst someone who refuses to pay their taxes and resists punishment. Of course, this Waco situation is only reached by really determined people, but it is always waiting there if we try to resist hard enough.

    "Though the situation is a bit different with net access, because the telephone infrastructure is already there. But originaly, it was either subsidize rural areas, or they don't get telephone. The cost was such that it would have been more profitable to ignore them."

    I don't see anything out-of-the-ordinary about that. Life involves choices, and we adapt to scarcity as best we can. Life doesn't get any better when the government picks favorites and grants them special privileges.

    "I wonder, did you receive a public education? It is effectivly income redistribution. I wonder how you'd feel about income redistribution when the welfare state quadruples in size, because education is no longer available to the poor."

    Actually, I was homeschooled. :}

    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.

  • "I think perhaps the pizza delivery metaphor is a bit inappropriate in this case. The original reason for legislation like the rural electrification act is that there is no economic incentive for a utility to serve people in rural areas. The fedral government decided around the great depression that it was important for all americans to have access to basic services, like electricity and telephone access."

    The Americans, too, decided that they wanted electricity and telephones. Had they been given a chance, they would have voted with their pocketbooks. Not only that, but I think it would actually become profitable to give these services to them. More on this a little later.

    "When the above poster argues that the government should make high speed internet access available cheaply to all he is merely suggesting that in the next several years, access to the internet will become a basic necessity that should be freely available to all. This is quite unlike pizza delivery which I think we would all agree is not necessary for our basic standard of living."

    Terms like "basic necessity," and "basic standard of living," only have meaning if one adopts Marx's labor theory of value where everything has an absolute value (measured by the labor that went into its production) in comparison with everything else. Capitalism is founded on the theory of subjective value, where the value of an object lies in the mind of the valuer. I feel that the subjective theory is the only one that makes sense. It makes sense because everyone is different, and has unique values. To a geek, internet access might be crucial to happiness. A redneck would doubtless consider other things "necessities." There are, certainly, some things that everyone really does need, like food, clothing, etc. I don't think internet access is necessary to everyone.

    "Finally the person who suggested that rural families should either deal with skyrocketing costs or move "back to civilization" should at least support his arguments a little more. Whether we like it or not, farming is a VITAL part of the american economy. ... Suggesting that they should just move back to the cities to get these necessities would have dire consequences to our economy. Is it worth paying an extra $.02 per month on your phone bill so some country bumpkin can have electricity? Or would you rather he moved into the city and brought milk prices up to those comparable with liquor."

    Obviously the products that farmers market are in demand. Reduce the supply and you're very right that prices for those products will skyrocket! Lots of this money will go back to the remaining farmers. Now if a whole area is full of rich farmers, it would be very profitable to sell internet service to them at a higher rate, so ISP's would move into the area. In the meantime, other potential farmers would see all the dough that can be made in the industry, so they move to the country and produce. Their production lowers the price of food products. Now the price of foodstuff is back to normal, and ISP's exist in the country. The market at work.

    Perhaps I'm wildly ignorant (correction, I know I am), so don't be harsh if I'm way off the mark. It just seems like that is what would happen. Comments, please?

    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.

  • Years ago they probably asked how the poor would get shoes without redistribution of wealth. Shoes used to be a luxury, despite their great usefulness. I imagine that the competition of many private schools would keep prices down.


    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.
  • Haha! Yeah, the other communications mediums do suck. I was just trying to show the Robin Hood mentality for what it is. I actually think it would become profitable to provide these services to farmers out in the sticks. I go into more detail about that in my post The Invisible Hand @ Work [slashdot.org].

    As for homeschooling, my parents really don't have much to do with it. I learn from books, not my parents. In many areas I'm more educated than they are. Still, poor people would have to buy the books or go to a library (which is made free by taxation). The answer to education for all (or at least those who care) in the free market was given in one of the chapters of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. It has articles by many authors. I think it was compiled by Ayn Rand.

    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.

  • So the small farmers get some money to get a new start in the cities, and farming is handled by farmers who run larger productions and can work more efficiently. Combine this efficiency with government environmental controls and the low prices caused by the competition of the big fishes and you find that the market is indeed at work.


    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.
  • As far as I can see, destroying crops is just stupid. I don't know who the wise guy was who had the idea that we can get rich by destroying our production... By "reduce the supply" I meant that it would be reduced by farmers as they moved into the city, not by being destroyed.

    Farmers are in no danger of becoming unnecessary! We all need food to live, and they are our suppliers. There is no need to "keep them alive" with subsidies and so forth.


    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.
  • Why would anyone move to an area that doesn't have phone service?

    --
    Peace, education, prosperity, and a clean environment:
    find out how the free market does it right.
  • Should the government be the ones to decide regulation or another body such as a committee with elected/appointed members by the Internet community?
  • I find you statements that taxation is inevitable repulsive. Whoever named you will was sorely mistaken because clearly you have none. If enough people say they don't want the internet or anything else to be taxed, the government will respond. Now the problem is getting enough people who actually care, but it can definitely be done. I also think that there is a decent reason, other than people don't want to pay taxes, why the internet should not be taxed. Taxes have traditionally been used to prevent the use of a product (cigarettes for example) or for providing a service (toll roads for example). However, I doubt the government wants to curb the use of the internet, and we are not using a government provided service. A tax on the internet would remind me of the stamp tax in the colonial days which caused such an uproar, and I think an uproar would also follow an internet tax.
  • you may want to re-read what I wrote.

    I never said that regulation of the phone companies was a bad thing, but I also don't want regulation of everything and anything that people think poses the risk of a monopoly.

    And just to play devil's advocate a little more: do you think the cable companies would have sat idly by while the phone companies were raising prices? In other words regulation of access providers is not really taking into account that the very access these companies deny may be granted by others that see an open path for competition.
    The phone companies would have eventually come around to the fact that the access that they were withholding was getting more and more outdated...
  • italics are quotes from the article...
    (pardon the length, the author is wordier than Jon Katz...)
    There is deep confusion about the idea of "regulation" within our political culture and about its relationship to innovation and the Internet.

    [snip]

    This attitude is profoundly mistaken. It betrays an extraordinary ignorance about the history of the Internet, and this ignorance threatens to undermine the innovation that the Internet has made possible. Innovation has always depended upon a certain kind of regulation; the greatest examples of innovation in our recent past evince this reliance. And unless we begin to see the relationship between this type of rule and the innovation it promotes, we are likely to kill the promise of the Internet.

    In my view, the benefit has been the Internet. Though the Internet proper was initially a network among universities, had it not been for the ability of ordinary consumers to connect to the Internet, that network would have gone nowhere. (Universities are fun, but they aren't enough to fuel commercial revolutions.) Ordinary consumers connected to the Net across phone lines. And had it not been for the open-access rules that the government imposed upon telephones, the telephone companies would most likely have behaved just as every network owner in history has behaved--to control access and use architecture to minimize competition. If it hadn't been as cheap to dial a local bulletin-board system (BBS) as it was to dial a local friend; had the Baby Bells kept the power to force customers to a Baby Bell ISP; had the government not insisted that competitors be connected and had it not policed pricing to ensure nondiscrimination--had it not, in short, used the power of law to force a competitive neutrality onto the telephone system, the telephone system would not have inspired the extraordinary innovation that it did.

    To sum it all up, this man is talking about how he thinks regulation had been a Good Thing for the Internet, and how the telephone companies would have ruined what we have now. IMO, he's got a lot of things mixed up.
    The Author seems to think that the concept of regulation is of one type only - government taking care of the little guy (you and me), protecting us from Big Corporations. What he doesn't grasp, is that regulation done for the sake of killing monopolies != all Internet regulation.
    The 20 somethings that he mentions in the beginning of the article bring up the slippery-slope argument, that if you start regulating broad-band, satellites, and other networks will go next...This is a good point - one that he doesn't grasp.

    If there's to be any regulation at all, it should be done because of wrong-doings that are currently on the books, not because some political hack doesn't like how the 'net infrastructure is shaping up. Users have a lot of choices as far as connectivity goes right now (at least in developed areas). This man's suggestions are short-sighted and misinformed...

  • geeks are using the rhetoric wrong, and it will burn them in the halls of government.

    If there is anything one takes home after reading this article, this is it: mind your phrasology!

  • Obviously the products that farmers market are in demand. Reduce the supply and you're very right that prices for those products will skyrocket! Lots of this money will go back to the remaining farmers.

    IIRC the government still subsidizes the farmers, paying them to destroy(or not even grow) crops to keep the prices up. We (through taxes) also help pay for their electricity, roads (when they have them), telephone, farming equiptment (through subsidized loans) and soon/now their internet pron. Sounds to me like we have too many farmers. Perhaps some should consider a change of occupation.

  • I understood what you meant, I was just trying to describe how I understand the current situation (in the US) to be. Farmers are definitely paid to destroy or hold on to crops (essentially until they rot) by the US government (this varies according to harvest, current value, and prospective needs). Don't ask me why it isn't shipped to parts of the world that need it (some of it might be).

    Farmers are in no danger of becoming unnecessary!
    I absolutely agree. Farmers are totally necessary. Thats why the government helps them as much as it does. The farmers in the US can produce far more food than is necessary to feed this country. When they produce more food that there is demand the price plummets, and they begin to have difficulty paying for all the equipment/service/wages they need to cover to continue to produce. If they don't produce enough, they can't cover the costs either. Basically they're between a rock and a hard place. (hopefully not on their fields)

  • I'm Canadian, and I shop regularly on eBay and Amazon.com, so where would the taxes for those purchases go?

    The same place they would go if you had bought stuff from an on paper catalog.
  • quote: In particular, he points out that even Linus is subject to regulation in how much control he has over the kernel. He is regulated by the fact that if people don't like what he's doing, they can pack up the source and do someting different. So he can't simply "force" people to use bad technology because he controls linux.

    This is ridiculous. If you are going to equate regulation with market forces, then you obscure all the institutional differences between markets and regulatory bodies. I don't think anyone wants to read an essay on why the rules and discipline provided by markets are better, more proactive, and more efficient than the ones produced by government agencies, but it's fundamentally misleading to refer to both as "regulation."

    -BBB

  • The WHOLE POINT of the article was that regulation is split into two parts, one which confines activity (e.g. banning adults talking about sex) and one which helps to prevent the confining of activity (the GPL, the enforcement of openness of networks, making sure that:

    *no one* owns TCP/IP and *no one* regulates it nor Net access)

    He was _trying_ to say that rightful fear of one should not drive us from the other. Are you trying to say that the GPL is bad because internet porn should not be regulated?

  • When you buy something in person, you pay taxes. When you buy it on the net, you should also pay taxes.

    No. When I buy something via a mail order catalog, I only pay taxes if the seller is also in California. If this is not the case, I do not pay sales tax on that purchase. On-line purchases should follow the same model.


    Turn on, log in, burn out...
  • There is indeed a "correct" way to pronounce Linux.
    I read this statement to imply that the guy was just throwing the limelight OS into the picture to credit his viewpoint, but by mispronouncing it, he proved himself to be bullshitting.

    Again, thats just how I read it...
  • by social ( 117400 )
    the notion of applying american laws to a global medium is silly. there should be zero regulation. i don't think there should be any privacy regulation or ecommerce regulation. i don't like the idea of anti-hax0r and security regulation either. yahoo, cnn, and any other site that gets hacked knew it was taking a risk when it implemented poor security measures. the internet should be governed by the users not politicians. internet tax laws are also silly. if i buy something out of state and pay to have it shipped to me then how the f*ck do i owe the state money?
  • Welcome to the real world. It's quite amusing to say these words when speaking about wirtual reality, but let's start arguing a bit on the consequences and, of course, on the causes.
    the internet is becoming more and more popular. Everyone knows about it (at least in US and Europe), everyone is excited about it. Do you think the government is going to sit on its comfortable chair and do nothing about it ? When it could make the chair even more comfortable ?
    Be serious. Of course they will impose regulations. Why ? Because they have the power to do it.
    Furthermore, the main internet providers are in US. Which gives the US govt the possibility of gaining a real control over an international system. Impressive, isn't it ? Does the word manipulation mean anything to you ? And it's even cheaper than all the more or less visible agencies. Not to mention military actions.
    Is this moral ? Probably not. Are we going to gain something from this ? Yeah, right !

    However, this could also bring some benefits. If the rules are fair we won't have to deal with situations like M$. Remember that they became what they are especially because of the lack of regulations (and the silliness of IBM).
    I'm not very sure how this will end but it will probably be something like the telephony networks today. Perhaps a bit more complex, but not too much. And I guess this isn't that bad after all ...
  • Nothing makes him so special, but he has a valid point. I'm Canadian, and I shop regularly on eBay and Amazon.com, so where would the taxes for those purchases go?

    Taxes suck (especially Canadian taxes), and yes as you say they pay for "roads, schools, jails, courts and looney bins", but the Internet is a global medium, not a US medium. If I shop, via the Internet, in shops on the moon, who gets the taxes?

    Adam


    This is my .sig. It isn't very big.
  • What I want to know is, where in the article did Lessig mention tax? Did you miss the bit where Hemos said give it a full read?

    The issue here is open access and choice for consumers, instead of taking the meager options available. Instead of a country-wide monopoly, you get area monopolies, with companies divvying up areas, and the people in them consequently getting lousy service.
  • Lessig is, as usual, right. Those slashdotters who have responded with concerns of "slippery slope" or wholesale rejection of regulation are missing the basic point. It's never a choice between no regulation and completely regulated. It's a choice on every individual regulation, and an analysis of whether that regulation helps or harms society. Lessig makes a cogent (and I think correct) argument that this is one regulation with a fair chance of helping the Internet more than it harms it.

    On the US issue, I'm tired of people waving their hands at the globe and saying "The Internet is global and therefore nothing we do matters." That's is completely irrelevant to the issue of Open Access. Those cable operators (or other broadband companies) run their business in the US and thus are subject to US laws for those business operations. If the US government passes a regulation that they must offer freedom of choice of ISP to US-based consumers, then they will have to.

    Geoff

  • he fallacy here is the one so aptly pointed about by the libertarians and Randians, but not an invalid one for that: the fact that the government has the guns and the permission to use them make coercion on the part of the government qualitatively different than anything that can be generated by the worst of the private sector.

    Those same guns are the ones that back up the control that corporations wield. If it weren't for the guns of the government, copyright, patents, wouldn't exist. The corps depend on regulation for their power, and so we depend on regulation to keep their power in check.

    The government is supposed to regulate to benefit the people of this country, not any particular corporation or industry. If, as Lessig pointed out, open access is a proven generator of innovation, then it would be in the interest of the people of this country to ensure that the broadband networks are open and stay that way, even if it isn't to the benefit of the corps that control these networks. They'll still make a lot of money, just not as much as they might. It's a good trade-off that keeps things from stagnating.

  • But it was easily 10 years ago I was connected to the Net in the UK. It is international in design.

    My point is that the net as we know it today wouldn't exist if people couldn't get cheap access to it. If AT&T had been allowed to retain complete control of the phone network, they would have continued to charge astronomical prices for data transfers and other similar uses of the network. They had no inkling of the potential of the net. Cable companies are selling high-speed data transfer services for a somewhat decent price (although it's still kinda pricey), but they will likely try to control the net in other ways, such as censoring sites that they don't agree with, blocking certain ports to try to prevent people from using their network for certain things, and even blocking you from accessing content that they believe is competing with some service that they provide (at an additional cost to you of course). We need to keep the broadband networks open so that these kinds of things do not happen. They do nothing but harm to the net and the potential for innovation.

    Yes, it still needs guidance. It will always. What I assert, is that the guidance should come from the same source it always has - the users.

    That was Lessig's point. Regulation hasn't been done just by the users. The government has been regulating the phone companies to make sure their networks are open to everyone, otherwise we wouldn't have the kind of access we have now.

    You say that telco's *could* block, eg, Linux headers if it wasn't for regulations. Please enlighten me, what USA regulations are there that prohibit packet-blocking?

    Ok, I don't know of a specific law preventing them from reading packet headers and blocking based on that data, but I do know that telcos are known as "common carriers" and that they are not liable for anything that is transfered on their network, so it's not in their interests to block packets. If they did, it would: #1, make them liable for blocking things that the government would like to see blocked, and #2, cost them money both to maintain the blocking, and in lost revenue from those that they're blocking and those that want to access what they're blocking.

    See MY first para; the Net isn't only USA and the USA gov't isn't needed / doesn't apply in [ironic]cyberspace[/ironic].

    The US government IS needed to ensure that US citizens have the kind of access they need to the net. Otherwise our access gets controlled by the corps that run the networks and innovation and growth come to a grinding halt here in the US. If we can't use the bandwidth we have in new and creative ways, we can't go on creating things like we've been doing. The cable companies (and other broadband providers) are determined to control any innovation that happens to utilize their networks. This will not serve the public good and should not be permitted.

  • The point is that government regulation is what kept the phone networks open enough for the net to come into existance. This has fostered incredible growth and innovation. Whatever costs taxpayers had to pay for that regulation, it seems to have been worth it. Now, it looks like net access could come to be controlled by the broadband network owners. This would be bad. This is not what helped the net grow and thrive. This is why we need regulation of the broadband providers, just as we had regulation of the phone companies. The benefits would seem to greatly outweigh the cost.

  • Wake up. These companies had a lot of help building their infrastructures. Help that came from the government. We have regulations for a reason. To benefit the public. The corps receive tons of support and protection from our government, they have to give something back too. Nobody is threatening to bankrupt them. They'll still be highly profitable, just like the phone companies are today. They just can't pursue profit to the point where they start harming the public good.

  • Firstly, the AT&T business; just because AT&T had a monopoly (in the US), and the net thrived despite that (The 'Net is international, fool!), doesn't mean that regulation is de facto good.

    First of all, the net originated in America and only in the last five years or so has it really spread across the globe in a major way. It still needs guidance and decisions made in America still play a big part in the development of the net. Now, what he's getting at is that if we didn't have open access to the phone network, the net would have remained an academic tool because it would have been worse than useless to the rest of us because it was too expensive to access. Without the rest of us on the net, we wouldn't have seen the explosion of new software and ideas that has come about since.

    Then he gets on to the plus side; However, he's wrong again. If Linus decided to code Mozilla into the Kernel, it'd be pretty tricky for M$ to hack the kernel to remove it and use IE/Linux instead (if they chose do do such a thing).

    Actually, Microsoft could simply start building on the kernel source that was in use before Linus went fscking insane. Simple.

    Oh, but telco's could read packet headers if they chose, to remove any Linux, Audio, [insert whatever you think they may not like here] packets alongstream.

    They could do that, if it weren't for regulations.

    the Gov't intervened and broke AT&T's monopoly (again, IN THE USA... The 'Net doesn't only exist in America

    See my first paragraph.

    Universities are VERY good places to start new technologies.

    Sometimes, yes. But we're talking about a physical network. It's fine to test and develop it in a university environment, but for it to be useful outside of that environment, we need to have open access to the network. If some entity has the capability of controlling that network, then they must be prevented from doing so. That's where the regulations come in.

    and they say, "closed isn't okay, open isn't okay, something in-between will come up". And he accepts this?!!!

    He isn't accepting this. That was his point. To explain his side of things and to let us know what's currently going on in the minds of the regulators. They currently don't plan to ensure the kind of access we've had up 'til now. We need to do something about that and let them know that we want open access.

  • They do "give something back". They pay $billions in taxes.

    I give the government (state and federal) nearly half my income in taxes too, but that doesn't mean they make exceptions to the law for me. Corps get all sorts of privileges that nobody else gets.

    Having government bureaucrats dictate prices kills most of the incentive to innovate, and s-l-o-ws down whatever survives to a crawl.

    Lessig's example of the phone network shows exactly the opposite. By regulating the network to keep it open to competition, innovation was thriving. He's saying that we should do the same with the broadband networks in order to keep things going as well as they've been going.

    Had the government let the phone company keep control over the network, they would have continued to charge outrageous prices for data transfers and the net never would have taken off here in the US, or at least it would have taken much longer to do so.

  • Actually, his point seemed to be that we're all up a creek unless we can figure out a way to get the government to keep broadband as open as the internet has been up to now. Otherwise, the control will end up being more with the corporations who have no incentive to allow anyone but themselves to innovate, and great incentive to do all they can to prevent any new competition from forming.

  • This whole "regulation is evil" is remarkably similar to the arguments I've heard from pro-M$ people against DoJ sanctions.

    I thought the same thing while I was reading the article.

    Too bad some areas only have cable, with phone lines that can't sustain DSL, or cable providers would go out of business.

    I live in San Antonio, TX. This is Southwestern Bell's turf. In order to get DSL here, you must live within approximately 17000 feet of the central office downtown. Since I live well over twice that distance away, I haven't got a chance in hell of getting DSL service. They've said for the last year or so that they were planning to provide service in my area, but after waiting over a year, I still haven't heard a peep about anything like that happening.

    My phone lines are crappy enough that I'm lucking to get a 28.8 connection. 56K modems are useless in my neighborhood. So, I'll probably end up getting RoadRunner service instead. It's a shame, but I don't have any other option.

  • What I find interesting is that the end-to-end network philosophy directly opposes quality of service support on the internet. I have always thought that QoS is essential in private LANs/WANs to shape the bandwidth efficiently, but Lessigs position would keep that off of the internet entirely.

    I'm not sure I agree, but it certainly is an interesting philosophical issue: advantages and disadvantages of dumb networks vs. smart networks, especially in the case of networks being largely provided by a small number of wire-holders.

  • But then again, it's just new regulation on top of old regulation... I have to wonder if the gov't made sure that it had not put in any obstacles to competition, if we would not see entire cable systems competing with each other, rather than just ISP's competing for bandwidth over the same cables. Not that that would be efficient, but sometimes redundancy can be a good thing too.

    Given that there is an effective cable monopoly though, I think it's probably a good thing to force them to give us an ISP choice. I know that's what I want... maybe if Cox can be forced to give me another ISP besides @home, I can find one that will let me have a decent domain name, and won't have to keep trying in vain to get DSL just so I can do that.
  • Besides opening up cable lines to different ISPs, regulations should be put in place to ensure that consumers subscribing to broadband can run the major network services if they want, such as Telnet, FTP, and HTTP. If someone has something they want to publish to the world, then they should be able to host their website on their own box if they want. Of course there are businesses which sell webhosting, but then one is still at the mercy of the hosting site's decisions to pull your pages at their whim. As we've seen in the news of late, companies who provide webhosting are not going to stand up and fight for the poster's rights.
  • And just to play devil's advocate a little more: do you think the cable companies would have sat idly by while the phone companies were raising prices?
    Why would cable companies have cared? Without cheap data over voice lines the internet would never have got to the point where anyone saw any point in offering any sort of access. When all there was was usenet (etc.) there wasn't a whole lot of cable company interest then.
    BTW No regulation by government just means regulation by corporations. If cable companies get to be the only people who have access to their wires you'll soon find that you have to use some proprietary stuff "to protect the children and improve security" to get on line, no connecting any of that "unauthorized/unsecure" open source code to their lines. (Remember when only Bell made phones, no, I suppose you don't)
  • Farmers are in no danger of becoming unnecessary! We all need food to live, and they are our suppliers. There is no need to "keep them alive" with subsidies and so forth.

    If by this, you mean that the farming industry is in no danger of becoming unnecessary, I agree with you. However, if you mean that each farmer's job is in no danger of becoming unnecessary, you are mistaken. As technology advances, and we develop better farming methods, we need less farmers.

    This thread has hit on one of my pet peeves. I grew up in a rural area, and many people there live off of farming subsidies. When I said that subsidising an entire industry is the stupidest fucking thing I had ever heard of, I just about got my ass kicked. Problem is, farmers all vote, and politcal rethoric about "the way of life" of the small farmer seems to sway a lot of folks (did I mention that Democracy doesn't work?).

    Look at your phone bill next time you get it. Your paying for someone else's phone access. Why? How is that ethical? Don't ask me. But to pay for others Internet access doesn't seem ethical. Supplying Internet access to everyone, even those in rural areas could cause democratic governments to run more efficiently, but the very fact that we're subsidizing the farming industry indicates that efficiency is not a concern of a lot of voters.
  • Put those grad students to work! Yah whipping boys yah! If you think a Uni is the only place where you see technical innovation take a gander at Lucent or IBM (IBM moreso before they went with research-only-profitable-stuff). Corporations that can make billions of dollars developing the technical stuff for the Net will because it will make them money. Alot of good ideas HAVE come out of universities but most of those are only ideas, they aren't really hammered out until a corporation adopts said technology. In case anyone forgets their history, Unix came out of Bell Labs (AT*T) but the gub'ment said they couldn't develop computer systems so they gave the code to the Universities and sold it to various corporations but did continue to develop their own version (you may know it as System V). As long as AT&T didn't market it the gub'ment left them alone.
  • Well you can't have pizza delivery without a telephone. Just try it, I dare you.

    I imagine someone could make a pretty penny selling my a pizza subscription. Pizza to my door every Tuesday night, automatic credit card billing. Recurring revenue until I make the effort(?) to cancel, and since I'm a lazy ass American, there's little chance of that. Shit, I still haven't bothered to cancel my cable TV yet, and the only reason I got that, was to watch Babylon 5 when it switched to TNT. Babylon 5 ended in ... uh 1998?

    Pizza subscriptions, no phone orders. MAKE $$$ FAST!!!


    ---
  • In other words regulation of access providers is not really taking into account that the very access these companies deny may be granted by others that see an open path for competition.

    The phone companies would have eventually come around to the fact that the access that they were withholding was getting more and more outdated...


    But that ignores history and reality. No one suspected that cable would ever be able to compete with phone, so no one took it into consideration when making technology decisions.

    And it isn't entriely coincidental that most telecommunications advances have taken place since (de)regulation of the phone systems. Having a theoretical competitor at some future point never got AT&T to stop their ridiculous pricing structures or telling people that they merely "rent" their phones. It was the REAL presence of MCI (and the continuous legal battles) that shook the cobwebs off.

    And of course cable companies couldn't offer voice services unless the lines are neutral, which is exactly what Lessig is talking about. If they could only connect you to another cable phone it wouldn't matter how cheap it was, because no one would use it.

    Only by standardizing on IP with open access to phone lines have all these great competitive possibilities opened up. They simply didn't exist before, and Lessig is suggesting that we should ensure (through regulation) that this same potential for competition with new technologies on existing open systems remains...
  • Aargh! As usual, a lot of folks seem to see the words "regulation" and "internet" in the same sentence and assume the suggestion is being made to deny them their pr0n.

    Lessig's entire article (I don't know how folks manage to miss it) is discussing how different kinds of regulation (NOT JUST GOVERNMENT REGULATION!! -- read the damn article!) affect innovation, in particular the development of the internet and to a lesser extent much of the current phone network in the US.

    In particular, he points out that even Linus is subject to regulation in how much control he has over the kernel. He is regulated by the fact that if people don't like what he's doing, they can pack up the source and do someting different. So he can't simply "force" people to use bad technology because he controls linux.

    This is regulation that assures positive benefits in innovation and technology, not to mention the side effect that it creates happier customers and less antagonism between providers and consumers.

    Without government regulation of the phone companies, we would not have the internet. Feel free to say that Lessig is an idiot who doesn't know as much as you do, but he's still right. For those of you under the age of 15, phone companies historically made a ton of money off data lines (ISDN and T1s primarily).

    They hated the idea of analog modems being used over their phone lines. They lost that fight with the "regulators" and it's a good thing or we wouldn't be worrying about the internet because no one but college students would be connected.

    I think it's odd that we bitch and moan about bundling content and access together, complain about AOL owning Roadrunner cable, but at the first suggestion that something be done to prevent this monopoly from locking out competitors we start screaming about "evil regulation".

    Even more odd is the fact that we geeks (who are so anal about terminology) are castigating Lessig for calling regulation by its proper name. The "regulation" he's suggesting is referred to as "DE-regulation" by phone companies and most politicians. It means removing competitive obstacles and required that the network remain neutral.

    Now who wants to argue against a neutral network?...
  • I think perhaps the pizza delivery metaphor is a bit inappropriate in this case. The original reason for legislation like the rural electrification act is that there is no economic incentive for a utility to serve people in rural areas. The fedral government decided around the great depression that it was important for all americans to have access to basic services, like electricity and telephone access.

    When the above poster argues that the government should make high speed internet access available cheaply to all he is merely suggesting that in the next several years, access to the internet will become a basic necessity that should be freely available to all. This is quite unlike pizza delivery which I think we would all agree is not necessary for our basic standard of living.

    Finally the person who suggested that rural families should either deal with skyrocketing costs or move "back to civilization" should at least support his arguments a little more. Whether we like it or not, farming is a VITAL part of the american economy. The people who farm in this day and age are not wealthy individuals. As a rule they cannot afford complicated high speed cellular bandwith and certainly not electricity and phone service if the government lifted its regulation. Suggesting that they should just move back to the cities to get these necessities would have dire consequences to our economy. Is it worth paying an extra $.02 per month on your phone bill so some country bumpkin can have electricity? Or would you rather he moved into the city and brought milk prices up to those comparable with liquor. The same thing would happen to the price of bread, cereal, anything with soy in it and most vegetables. I personally would rather subsidize the electricity and not pay later at the grocery store, wouldn't you?
  • <i>I don't see anything out-of-the-ordinary about that. Life involves choices, and we adapt to scarcity as best we can. Life doesn't get any better when the government picks favorites and grants them special privileges</i>

    Actually, it does. Ask anyone who benefitted from the rural phone service subsisdies. It's three dollars on my phone bill. It's the ability for them to call an ambulence. Do the math.

    You still didn't answer my question. Without the redistribution of wealth, how do you expect the poor to obtain an education?
  • Your ability to participate in the economy and to access public services is not hampered by not having pizza delivery.

    It is by not having a telephone, and will be even more so in the coming years by not having net access.

    Though the situation is a bit different with net access, because the telephone infrastructure is already there. But originaly, it was either subsidize rural areas, or they don't get telephone. The cost was such that it would have been more profitable to ignore them.

    Of course, even now, my grandmother lives 30 minutes away from the suburbs, and still can't get cable TV, though she could easily afford it, as she is already using DirectTV. Everyone says wireless internet will solve this problem, but I haven't seen anything real yet.

    I wonder, did you receive a public education? It is effectivly income redistribution. I wonder how you'd feel about income redistribution when the welfare state quadruples in size, because education is no longer available to the poor.
  • I agree with you up to point 6.

    6. The only other regulation we need is guaranteed low-cost access for anyone, like basic telephone service. No matter where they live in rural or remote areas. Tax the high-speed access people for this. Yeah, it's taxes. Deal with it.

    Saying this is like saying, "I live in a remote part of America. There is no pizza place that will deliver to me. So tax the people that live in highly populated ares that have many pizza delivery options so I can have pizza delivery too."

    I have a DSL line into my apartment. I pay more than a dialup line because I have more bandwith. I am paying more for more. I shouldn't have to pay more (for more) and more (taxes so someone remote can have it too). That is the Robin Hood mentatility. Rob from the rich to give to the poor. That is socalist to the extreme. Kinda like America's tax system.

  • I also think that there is a decent reason, other than people don't want to pay taxes, why the internet should not be taxed.

    In addition, there is the fact that the net taxation schemes being pushed by various local politicians are simply ways for them to get their hands into the pockets of distant consumers who don't use any of their services and can't vote them out of office.

    What was that line I remember from history class....? Oh, yeah: "No Taxation Without Representation".
    /.

  • Do you want the US goverment to get involved with Microsoft? What about the MCIWorldCom/Sprint Merger? I know that the European agencies are giving it a look but the US scrutiny helps. Take a look at how much of the backbone MCIWorldCom owns without Sprint. It is a bit scary. I for one want someone watching them. Heck, I want a lot of big powers watching them.
    Capitalism works best when no one is winning. Once a company starts to win too much, only stupidity, bad luck, or regulation will slow them. How else can competition be enforced?

    If the net had not taken hold in the US, it would not be what it is today. That's just a plain fact. A lot of the resources that went into the net (software, hardware) came from US companies. Many of the sites and companies that have driven the net are based in the US. The net is international and the time will come when the US doesn't matter but that time isn't here yet.
    SiliconValley and Redmond alone have a ton of power over the entire internet. The actions of large US companies can have an international reach. For example, Cisco, with its 85% market share, could begin to abuse that power. It would most likly be the DoJ that stops them. US goverment regulations matter internationaly when they effect US companies of the size of Microsoft and Cisco. This is true for any country with companies of this size. Japanese law can have a large effect through a company like Sony.
    As for Universities and new technologies...they are great places to start new technologies but it takes a business to make real use of them. The internet exploded when companies started making money off of it. Most people have internet access only because some ISP thought it could make money by selling it to them.

    I don't know what the laws are in your neck of the woods for cable access but around here it is a local monopoly. I have two choice when it comes to cable tv: none or the one company in my area. To make matters worse, the larger area around Philadelphia, PA, USA contains only a few cable companies that are all connected to AT&T in some way. Take a guess what cable internet provider I have to choose: Exite@Home. I can't shop around for competition because there isn't any. There is no real solution to this without some form of government regulation. If there is one, let me know because I do feel that regulation is costly weapon and one that is a last resort. I just don't see another solution to this problem.
  • "You are one spoiled bastard if you think TV is a right. It's a toy, 'kay?"

    I think that the major forms of communication (Print, Phone, Radio, TV, Internet) need to be protected by the goverment. Information is power and whoever controls that information has all the power. I don't want any one capitalist company to have that kind of power. I don't want a single goverment agency to be the gods of information either but we need some sort of watchdog group to keep on eye on things. This group needs some real power to keep things safe for the consumer. I think that orgs like the FCC and DoJ are needed but they are not good enough. I don't know what a better solution would be but I feel that these groups are much better than nothing at all.
    Without their protection, costs would rise and choice would fall.
  • This goes to the heart of the DoJ case in my mind. You can draw many connections between AT&T before the split and Microsoft now. AT&T controlled the network and crushed innovation that came from the outside. Microsoft does the same.
    There is a problem with uncontrolled capitalism. It works very well when no single entity is too good at it. It fails when an entity like MS or AT&T becomes too good at the game. This is where the governement must come in and "level the playing ground" through regulation. It is the only solution to keep things competitive.
    Professional sports has known this for sometime. The teams that did the worst the previous year usually get some sort of compensation, usually first crack at new young talent. Now compare these new players to intellectual property in the tech. world. Some pro sports have spending limits so that the richest teams can not automatically become the best. This works very well in the NFL and the NHL and MLB really need to take a look at it.
    This leads to one solution that many people ignore in favor of sexier plans like a break up or open sourcing the OS. Scott McNeally has suggested that MS be banned from purchasing any intellectual property for five years. This would force MS to rely on their on development. They could spend as much as they want but they have to come from inside. If this had been law five years ago, much of MS's software would either not exist or look drastically different. For example, what is now known as Exchange was purchased and then modified. MS literally purchased their way into dominance in two major areas with HotMail and WebTV.
    Would Cisco have dethroned MS as the biggest company (in terms of market capitalization) without all of their purchases? WorldCom was just a business long distance telephone provider before their spending spree gave them control over half the Internet backbone without including Sprint's network which will soon be added. What will stop the recently formed ExxonMobil from becoming StandardOil again?
    Regulation is the only way that government can do its job of keeping things competitive. If that means more taxes to pay for the expesive regulation, so be it. I know that I will get value for those dollars through increased competition. If those tax dollars buy me the next innovation that would have been otherwise crushed then I think that it was money well spent.
  • I dont't think so. At least not yet. For a moment, forget the Internet. Why is it that I can choose almost everything in my life but I can't choose something as simple and basic as where I get my MTV? I can choose where the electricity, the power for my TV comes from (I live in PA, USA) but I can't choose where the shows, the data come from? That is wrong. I think this type of control is why it took so long for innovations to come to cable. My cable system is about the same as it was in the mid 80s. I have a few more channels and a wireless remote. Wow. I still have to pay whatever the cable company asks unless the government controls them. If I owned a cable company, I wouldn't change a thing. Why bother making it faster, better, and cheaper? Where are your customers going to go?
    You may say that cable is a luxury and if you don't like it use some of the alternatives. Most of these alternatives are either too limiting (good old rabbit ears), too expensive (massive dish), or owned and priced by the same cable companies (small dish). I really don't think that cable is a luxury any more than the Internet is. There are many forms of important information only available through cable. CSPAN converage, for example. Several channels (Discovery, TLC, A&E, Bravo, etc.) offer high quality educational and artistic content.
    As for the company's investments; they will still make money off of them. Forcing AT&T (these guys again?) to open up their cable lines does not mean opening them up for free. It just means that AT&T must allow others to pay to use them. They can and would still make tons of money through there investment. They will also make money by increasing the power and popularity of the format. For example, some say IBM should have protected the PC like Apple did with Mac. IBM's chunk of the PC pie is bigger than Apple's whole Mac pie.
  • Obviously the products that farmers market are in demand. Reduce the supply and you're very right that prices for those products will skyrocket! Lots of this money will go back to the remaining farmers. Now if a whole area is full of rich farmers, it would be very profitable to sell internet service to them at a higher rate, so ISP's would move into the area. In the meantime, other potential farmers would see all the dough that can be made in the industry, so they move to the country and produce. Their production lowers the price of food products. Now the price of foodstuff is back to normal, and ISP's exist in the country. The market at work.

    The poor farmers who moved away because they couldn't afford the utilities would get bought our by large corporations with the ability to pay the utility costs and the clout to raise prices of basic food stuffs. Then, when the utility companies move in, and the food industry is very profitable and entrepreneurs want back into the market, they can't, cause the big mega-corps will kill them before they even get started. The market at work.
  • All hail corporate power!
    All hail corporate efficiency (particularly big corps)!
    All hail the death of the evil, evil, small entrepreneur with his evil, evil, new ideas!

    :-)

    I guess I just don't share your enthusiasm over so-called "corporate efficiency".
  • Taxation may be "inevitable" and a fact of life BUT... I pay taxes out of my paycheck to federal, state, local, and social security. Then, anything I buy has a 5.75% sales tax on it. Then, if I owned a house, I'd have to pay property tax. I have to pay to have my car registered in my state. Any gas, alcohol, or cigarettes I buy would have an additional tax. The companies that make the products that I buy pay lots of taxes. We still pay taxes to fund wars from 1899. What the hell do they need a NEW tax for, when they have plenty of money with the taxes we're already giving them?? (30-40% of gross salary including the non income taxes) And you know, if a tax goes on the books, it NEVER comes off, even when deemed to be a temporary one. Take some of the old "temporary" taxes off and I might be ok with an internet sales tax.
  • It's not at all obvious that taxation of internet transactions is inevitable or necessary. Of course taxes need to be collected for a country to provide necessary services. But that doesn't mean every type of transaction will be taxed. Case in point: mail order transactions have gone without being taxed (for the most part) for a long, long time. Despite the compliants of revenue-grubbing governors, it'll stay that way.

    It's important to point out that internet companies are already taxed. They pay corporate taxes, property taxes (assuming they have a location), payroll taxes, state income and local income taxes, and a lot of other little taxes. They don't exist in a tax-free zone. So to say "They need to pay taxes to pave the roads and pay the cops" is fatuous.

    As an aside, keep in mind the percentage of GNP going to the US government has never been higher in peacetime. And almost every state is rolling in budget surpluses. America is hardly undertaxed.

  • He didn't say zero taxation. He said no internet taxation. America has an absolute shitload of taxes on everything already. Your roads, schools, jails, courts and looney bins aren't going anywhere unless somehow all income and property taxes are somehow repealed.
  • 1/3/5/6 (taxes are inevitable). First, singling out the internet for taxation is not inevitable. That is not to say that thousands of people are out there working very hard to tax the internet-- after all, they have dozens top-down social engineering proposals to create, and that costs money. If that means killing a few startups, well, they're just corporations. Not like they employ people or anything. Or maybe you work for one of the maybe three startups which are turning tremendous profits.

    By definition, regulation means taking a decision from people and placing it in the realm of government. Most people who want regulation say "People are making evil and/or stupid decisions, so if we regulate, then I make them for you." The reality goes like this: "I don't like the decisions everyone else is making, so I'll put it to a vote, and two years later I have to do it their way, too."

    If we're serious about openness, we should remember that the only reason that so many startups are around is that they aren't getting killed by a death of a thousand cuts from regulations and taxes. If you aren't, you can tell everyone that you want your way and that everyone should 'stop whining'... Even Microsoft was a garage operation once-- killing the internet's growth is a simple matter of a form here and a 'minor' tax there. They add up to kill industries.

    We also need guarantees that when we order DSL or Cable Modems, they'll be installed in 10 working days (or less), and that outages are fixed promptly. Beyond that, the government should butt out.

    Beyond what? Every conceivable regulation? You're hurting the people you are claiming to help. Companies are giving computers away for free! ISPs are fixing stuff-- maybe not as fast as you like, but that's why we have competition. Every one of your suggestions for a regulation is adding another tiny cost to the price of doing business on the internet. And this isn't even stuff like privacy legislation-- you're suggesting a law to ban the everyday annoyances of life. Well, if it means that much to you, pay a higher cost for 24hr repairs. Just because there is a law that makes 'them' fix it on your schedule (and incidentally, outlaws cheap services for people who don't need extra features) doesn't reduce the cost of that service. Cheap internet is creating itself-- putting it on a government timetable will make it take more time, not less, and will make the internet that much less interesting when it gets to universal access.

    What bothered me so much about this post is that the article was really good, and made me rethink many of my opinions. Then, this response came up, and I remembered why I think the way I do on this. Here's my laundry list:

    The Open Source business model is enforced by contracts, not laws. If Open Source wasn't more palatable to the consumer, more stable and more efficient than Closed Source as a development model, it wouldn't exist.

    Regulations inherently force people to do things that they wouldn't do otherwise. Sometimes this is good (ie laws which protect people's rights, laws which keep the market open, etc.) More often, it is tinkering by people who know the One True Way to do something, and have to resort to force to make people do it. Just because someone has to do something won't make it cheaper or more efficient. In fact, usually, the regulation specifies how to do something, because that is easier to enforce. Then you kill innovation by making technology a political question rather than a technical one.

    Censorware: there is nothing wrong with censorware as long as you aren't forced to use it by law. And usually, you aren't. If you use taxpayer-funded datalines, you have to deal with taxpayer-voted filters. Fair is fair. The problem is when companies which produce filterware don't reveal their block lists and are therefore making stupid stupid misjudgements-- without letting communities know just what they are blocking!

    'Line-Ucks'. I am not trolling-- hear me out! I used Linux back when noone knew how to pronounce it. I remember user groups arguing constantly over the issue. I still defiantly pronounce it with the long I. Why? Well: "I am Leeenoos Torvalds and I pronounce Leeeenoooks Leeenooks." One listen, then all the L'nux people declared victory and went home. I still don't buy it, even if all sane people disagree.

    Anyway, long answer, but the point is this: open standards and open networks are good statements of principle. But we have to be very careful that we don't let the 'mandatory 10 day installation by Presidential Proclamation' people regulate the liberty out of the internet.

    oh, and speaking of regulation: End the TLD Tyranny!

  • Mr Lessig writes as if the Internet and any broadband access to it is owned, situated in and controlled entirely by Americans, under US law.

    It isn't, and that's quite possibly the strongest force for common sense legislation.

    Maybe he should approach this by ensuring US Govt. sees a visible loss of compeitiveness & profit to the US economy from the lack of ISP choice over broadband?

    If his arguments were phrased to start with "The UK, Germany and Japan will have an economic advantage over us if they have end-to-end and we don't, because..." I'm sure the legislators will listen up!

    - Andy R.

  • Most /.ers are of the opinion the a Totalitarian regiem on the internet would not be a very good thing. However, it seems to be inevitable that some sort of control is becoming necessary to avoid anarchy. As a compromise between the anarcho-capitalists and the dictators I propose PLAN 14.


    PLAN 14

    In order to have some semblance of order, we need a group of people who are knowledgeable, yet we woudl like them to be fairly impressionable so they don't try to take too much power. So I propose that we instate the 140 people who are 14 years old. Reasons why this would be a good plan:

    1) You are only 14 for a year, so you can't become a career internet dictator.

    2) They are smart enough to get some stuff accomplished on the computers, but they will effectively not have a voice out side of that realm.

    3) If they get out of hand, take away their allowance and sedn them to bed early. Ground them if necessary.

    4) Great way to keep kids from doing drugs. Which would you rather do, be supreme internet dictator for a year, or do drugs?

    5) Teaches the children leadership the good ol' fashion way: throw 'em in the water, and say sink or swim.

  • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @12:10PM (#1164997)
    If AT&T hadn't been a government sanctioned and protected monopoly in the first place, it wouldn't have needed regulations to force it to do things that the free market would have forced it to do.

    Open Source licenses (GPL, etc) secure rights for the creators of the source. Lessig wants to trample on the exact same rights if they belong to companies investing $billions in new infrastructure.

    Yes, sometimes those companies will do boneheaded things (blocking port 80, etc). But cable vs. DSL vs. wireless vs. (soon) satellite competition is the way to straighten those things out, not by getting Big Brother involved. (And if Big Brother wasn't so greedy with the spectrum auctions and heavy-handed in its regulations we'd have a lot more wireless options...)
  • That's what I'd go for. If my internet use and my internet purchases are taxed, I - as an internet user - want to have a say into how those particular taxes are used. I don't want to have those tax dollars used as some sort of compensation for businesses not on the internet, simply because that's not fair to those on the internet. I'd much rather have the taxes go into infrastructure and other worthwhile internet endeavors that could benefit people globally.

    Technically, I don't see how this tax scheme is possible to implement short of some central internet authority. But if I'm taxed on the internet, I want to see benefits on the internet from that.

    Just my two bits worth...

  • by WillAffleck ( 42386 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @08:48AM (#1164999)
    OK, let's break it down:

    1. Taxation is inevitable. Deal with it.

    2. Regulation of Internet Access is Good. We need Open Competition between providers. We don't need restrictions on this. We also need guarantees that when we order DSL or Cable Modems, they'll be installed in 10 working days (or less), and that outages are fixed promptly. Beyond that, the government should butt out. [note - I own shares in AT&T, Cisco, AOL, Cox, a bunch more - and I'm hurting my profit picture by saying this]

    3. Taxation is still inevitable. Stop whining.

    4. Censorship is Bad. Information to permit consumers to know which spam or web site is X-rated or has violent images is ok, but not if Congress decides which is which. Multiple rating services should be permitted, so consumers can choose which (if any) they wish to use. I'm going to choose one for my son that bans violence and sex with violence (and until he's older, sex). And maybe right-wing loonies.

    5. The Internet Will Be Taxed. Get a life ...

    6. The only other regulation we need is guaranteed low-cost access for anyone, like basic telephone service. No matter where they live in rural or remote areas. Tax the high-speed access people for this. Yeah, it's taxes. Deal with it.

  • by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @09:04AM (#1165000)
    The only other regulation we need is guaranteed low-cost access for anyone, like basic telephone service. No matter where they live in rural or remote areas.

    Nonsense. In rural areas, some things naturally cost less (e.g. land) and some things naturally cost more (e.g. wiring). Deal. Or move. Or invest in technologies that circumvent the high costs (e.g. wireless).

    Tax the high-speed access people for this.

    Harrison Bergeron [gurlpages.com], please call your office.
    /.

  • by DGregory ( 74435 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @11:46AM (#1165001) Homepage
    Well you can't have pizza delivery without a telephone. Just try it, I dare you.

    "but there are also other means of communication than a phone."

    Hey YOU can use tin cans and string, I'll keep my telephone. Maybe carrier pigeon. Telegram.

    See my point? What other means of communication are there? Only ancient ones that no one uses anymore. Email? Well you need phone lines (or at least cable lines) for that.

    If you live way out in the boonies, and you fall and can't get up, how are you going to get an ambulance? I guess you're NOT unless you have a phone. We may not have a RIGHT to be GIVEN a phone, but we certainly have a right to get one if we want one. Which is why they do lay lines for people in Nowheresville and don't charge them more. That's why local phone is a government regulated monopoly (right now, in most areas).

    There is no other good alternative means of communication other than the telephone, whereas with pizza, you can go out and grow a tomato garden or something.

    Net access hasn't grown to the point yet that phone service has. Someday it probably will.

    Education:
    The thing about this is that people who are poor generally don't have the time on their hands to home school children, unless they're on welfare. And if you're on welfare, how much education do you have? Generally not enough, otherwise you'd have a skilled labor job. It's a catch 22. This is why if education is no longer available to the poor, that would be a BAD thing... the poor wouldn't have the opportunity to become more educated and have the potential to get a good job.
  • by Mendax Veritas ( 100454 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @08:50AM (#1165002) Homepage
    Who is the "Internet community"? Ten years ago that concept meant something, but I don't think it does anymore. Do all of IBM's employees count? All of Microsoft's? How about AOL's 20 million subscribers?

    I suspect over the next ten years or so we'll see the Net, or its successor(s), subjected to the same sort of backward-looking defensive strategies that have been involved in DVD/ebook-style "copyright protection". Right now the Internet doesn't have the right kind of infrastructure to, for instance, restrict access by geography (you can sort of do it by reverse DNS lookups, but that doesn't really work well) so that something illegal in Germany can't be downloaded to or routed through Germany. But there's no reason you couldn't do that in a future "next generation" Internet, given sufficient government funding.

    I don't want this to be the case, but I suspect that the Internet we've known, with its great freedom (based on technological limitations, for the most part), is a temporary thing. When it's replaced, the governments of the world will be paying a lot more attention than they did last time, and the resulting network will be quite different in consequence.

  • by Anomalous Canard ( 137695 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @09:36AM (#1165003)
    I've heard of the principle of end-to-end in the design of the Internet, but frankly, I'd forgotten it and I needed this piece to apply it to these very policy issues. I knew open access was good but couldn't articulate it as he has done. Now I won't forget it.

    I see the pressure of the network provider at work in my wireless internet provider. Windows and Windows CE are supported products. I've had to call tech support twice in the last few days and pretend that I used Windows and their software (which I've never actually seen in operation) to access the wireless network. Now they want everyone to get a proprietary, network-compression protocol that isn't available for Linux. I may not be able to keep a service that I've used for almost a year.

    Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected
  • by yankeehack ( 163849 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @10:36AM (#1165004)
    Others have posted very eloquently about Lessig's main points in the article, but I just wanted to clear up some misconceptions some \. posters have made about the US political process. Some of your knee jerk reactions to "the government" has made me turn around and go looking for the black helicopters.

    Lessig's main point is that he feels that there should be regulation concerning the emergining broadband technologies so that there is "free access" for all. Not free as in money, mind you, but freedom to pick an ISP reguardless of who developed the infrastructure. You need to assume if we allow certain companies to develop these networks, they'll be extremely protective of their infrastructure. I highly doubt that TimeWarner or Adelphia or whomever will be willingly inviting other ISPs to use their cables and routers and what have you, unless there is some sort of motive--and the motive here is regulation. And, HOW ELSE WILL YOU MOTIVATE THESE COMPANIES TO KEEP THE NETWORK FREE OF PROPRIETARY STANDARDS?

    As for those of you who are reading this outside of the US, the arguement is for regulating ACCESS TO THE NETWORK IN THE US.

    But in the end, it comes down to this, there is work being done in Washington to regulate FREE ACCESS to the Internet and yeah, it will affect you sooner or later. Wether you choose to sit behind a screen all day is your business, but don't allow your misconceptions to color your view of the world. You might even want to actually pay attention to the Sunday news shows once in a while.

  • As a whole, Lawrence Gets It(tm). he's thoughtful, and has the proper wide view on alot of stuff, particularly regulation of the (US-portion) Internet.

    Cable companies should most certainly be forced to provide Open Access. They've got a government-sanctioned monopoly, and are in (for all practical purposes) the same position that your local ILEC (nee RBOC) is in. We'd all be very upset if PacBell/BellSouth/BellAtlantic/et al. suddenly were allowed to shut off ISP access to anyone but their own ISP, wouldn't we? It's the same boat here.

    However, in the longer term, I advocate something that not alot of people either consider (or may disagree with). I advocate the Nationalization of the Local Data Infrastructure. That is, just like you have the local Road Dept, there should be a local Data Dept. (Note, I think that the larger-scale infrastructure is doing just fine as it is, it's just the local data link that needs help.)

    Now, before you all yell Commie!, thing about this. The big fight right now is over the last mile access - the CO to house, or curb to neighborhood. With the convergence of TV, phone, and data, it really makes no sense (from anyone's economic point of view) to have 4 or 5 companies maintaining different information infrastructures, with all the costs associated with them. Info lines are now as critical as roads, and realistically, we should have someone dedicated to that.

    What I'd like to see is that each Municipality take over the last mile work, and essentially be fully responsible (and SOLELY responsible) for providing physical connectivity to each household. Then at the local CO, you can anyone to put in lines to their company to provide access of any kind they want. Open Access for Everyone, with no monopoly on any part of the process. Part of your taxes would pay for this Department, and you'd have direct feedback on how this was spent (vs. Do you really think SuperMegaCorp is that responsive to your community needs? view the spotty DSL/cable rollouts).

    The big snag on this is that this really requires fibre to the house. It'll cost alot, but it'll be worth it to say the least. And having local control over the infrastructure means you can probably get better response than having it controlled by SuperMegaCorp#1.

    Also, to everyone who complains about subsidizing rural areas: GROW UP! Think beyond the end of your nose, and quit being selfish. Having Universal Telephone service changed this country, as did complete Electrification, both of which were paid for by slightly taxing high-density areas to allow for the installation and maintenance of rural areas. Providing these services to rural areas is what allowed huge gains in farm productivity, so all you city-dwellers, remember who feeds you.

    Just some thoughts!

    -Erik

  • The Author seems to think that the concept of regulation is of one type only - government taking care of the little guy (you and me), protecting us from Big Corporations.

    You must have been reading a different article, check your link.

    The article being discussed has entire paragraphs dedicated to three different kinds of regulations and how they have affected innovation.

    In fact, his article was directed at people like YOU -- who hear the word "regulation" and immediately start channeling Ayn Rand. Re-read and pay attention to the parts where he says regulation DOES NOT MEAN BIG GOVERNMENT "taking care of the little guy" as you put it.

    The 20 somethings that he mentions in the beginning of the article bring up the slippery-slope argument, that if you start regulating broad-band, satellites, and other networks will go next...This is a good point - one that he doesn't grasp

    He grasps it more effectively than most folks here. Tell me, were you complaining about the "regulation" that prevented phone companies from charging more for data than voice? That's exactly what Lessig is speaking of when he refers to phone companies that would have kept the internet stillborn.

    The phone companies wanted to protect their lucrative ISDN and T1 lines, so they were quite upset at the idea of people sending data over a regular voice line. They wanted to charge more (not that it cost them any more to send data than voice) and "big government regulators" said they were being idiots. Without that regulation the internet would still be a university toy and we'd still be dialing onto BBSes and downloading messages for offline reading.

    Lessig wrote this article to educate those 20-somethings (like you) who seem to think all these toys sprang from nowhere and were inevitable. "Deregulation" is not deregulation at all, it is a different kind of regulation. And of course government (legal) regulations are only a THIRD of what he's talking about...
  • by raibeart ( 78133 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @09:05AM (#1165007)
    <quote>
    About five minutes into the session, two staffers came in late. And after about a minute more of my presentation, one of the latecomers had heard enough. Here I was, he objected, arguing that the government should "begin regulating the Internet." Where was the limit? Where would I draw the line? Today I was calling for the regulation of broadband cable; should we also regulate broadband wireless? And if wireless, then satellite too? Was there any stopping this "new" regulation of cyberspace? Was I proposing that we regulate Linux (or "Line-Ucks," as he mispronounced it) because it might become as popular as Windows? </quote>

    Sounds like that staffer was your normal /. user. Show up late in the discussion. Don't listen to the whole argument. Then goes off half cocked.

    Had to smile...
  • This whole "regulation is evil" is remarkably similar to the arguments I've heard from pro-M$ people against DoJ sanctions.

    Right now, there is a large battle going on between DSL providers, Broadband Cable providers, and dialup networks. DSL is winning by a huge margin, primarilly because it is regulated for open access. I had an option of getting Cable from MediaOne (LA area cable service) at discount, because my building provides the basic cable service, or one of about ten DSL companies that could hook it up on my line. I have to say, it was less painful than my local phone service (get reamed by PacBell or ... um ... just use my cell for everything) choices. Because MediaOne only has RoadRunner, and no one else can provide over that line, I would have been forced to use a service that blocked most of the useful port numbers, and made horrible restrictions on content. (Yes, they do... there are things they mention in the contract that make me sick) Fortunately, DSL was also an option, and with competition, they couldn't afford to pull that sort of thing. Too bad some areas only have cable, with phone lines that can't sustain DSL, or cable providers would go out of business. And that would be just fine by me. If PCs had not been M$ only for so long (like cable lines are service-choiceless), they would never have become big enough to abuse their monopoly the way they have. The same goes for connectivity. If it requires government regulation, so be it. There are times when a less profit motivated party must exert some control, for the good of the consumer, and for the long term good of all.
  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @09:55AM (#1165009) Homepage
    Lessig is a very smart guy and very capable of expressing himself. He is worth reading.

    The summary of his article (IMHO):

    (1) There ain't no such thing as "no regulation". Regulation is not just laws, but also (social) norms and technological feasability. Realtime Blackhole List is regulation. Setting the router to reject obviously spoofed packets is regulation. Not-building pro-surveillance features into 'net protocols is also regulation ('cause it effectively regulates ability to do surveillance).

    (2) Regulation is not necessarily bad, especially in a monopolistic or near-monopolistic situation. If they could, don't you think Baby Bells would have started to charge you $9.99 per minute for data calls to other ISPs and $0.09 per minute for calls to its own ISP? They couldn't because of regulation. The point is: sometimes regulation leads to more choice, not less. And more choice is good.

    (3) One of the reasons for the 'net's success is that the network is dumb. All it does is shuffle IP packets. All the intelligence resides at ends, with the users. This may seem natural to Slashdotters, but other ways are certainly possible and phone companies, for example, would much rather have an "intelligent" network (which provides services that they can charge for) than a dumb commodity network. See also George Gilder and his ideas about "dark fiber".

    Lessig argues that the dumbness of the network was a major factor in the success of the Internet (in particular, it avoided specializing the network for some particular use). His point is that we should do the same with broadband: keep the network dumb and freely accessible at the ends. If necessary, regulate to keep it that way.

    I am not a big fan of regulation at all, and I certainly trust the government much less than Lessig does, but his arguments are certainly food for thought.

    Kaa
  • by goliard ( 46585 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @09:26AM (#1165010)

    Nothing in that article had anything to do with taxation.

    Here's my summary of the article:

    What the word "regulation" means, contrary to popular opinion, is any method (legal or otherwise) of coercing resource owners to behave in ways contrary to their wont. If we want connectivity providers to remain as open to innovation as the net currently is, we're going to have to force them, since (he gives examples) innovation is not in their best corporate interests. That forcing is as much a form of regulation as imposing a tax. People who complain on one hand about "regulation" meaning "imposing taxes" and then argue that cable companies should be required to avail their customers of alternate ISPs are being ignorent and inconsistent.

    His point: geeks are using the rhetoric wrong, and it will burn them in the halls of government.


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