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Re: [atlarge-discuss] "IPv6 & ICANN is..."

At 08:23 +0100 2002/12/02, Holger Steiner wrote in response to jkhan:
>So it should be forbidden to use new technology as long as not everybody
>on the planet has free access to it?

That's a "straw man" argument, I think. The idea expressed was that one should consider accessibility before implementing something only a small part of the world can use. 

In this context as in others, the biggest push for implementing expensive technologies comes from those who sell them or otherwise stand to benefit financially. 

While the policy-makers of the world are trying to figure out how to include the developing world into the "Information Society" some time over the next decade, it seems regressive to say "**** them if they can't pay what industrialized-world corporations can".

>> We should be focusing on the concerns
>> of, people who are (or should be) trying to find something to eat,
>> before we glitz them with internet services, the 'Knowledge' they seek
>> to make gains in the World must be free (minimum) in order for a
>> progressive humanity to exist.
>"must be free"?
>Without free access to the internet there can´t be a "progressive
>Well then, there never was a "progressive humanity", whatever that
>means, because internet was never free.

Much as I love the English language, it does have its drawbacks. It's easier in French where we can easily distinguish between "gratuit" (at no cost) and "libre" (without restrictions. Most people who say "Information wants to be free" -- a major rallying cry in the open source movement -- mean that information should circulate freely and everyone should be free to obtain it if they want to, not that somehow computers and Internet accounts can be made to grow on trees.

The Internet *is* free in the sense of "libre", as long as one doesn't live in one of the countries where reading information from other parts of the world is considered a crime. It can also be free in the financial sense, in that it is entirely possible to set up no-charge public access terminals in libraries or community centres if one has some money and let people use the Internet without charge: here in Canada we're doing that in schools and public libraries all over the country as a matter of national policy.

Humanity has always been progressive, conservative and regressive in about the same proportions as now. The Greek myth of Prometheus springs to mind: the gods wanting to keep fire to themselves exact an eternal punishment from the fellow who gave fire to the ordinary people ... but they couldn't stop Prometheus from giving the mortals fire or prevent the mortals from using it once they had it. 

In today's world, it's money and knowledge that are at stake. Some people see themselves as the gods of the market and want to keep their privileges to themselves. Others are working towards an economic system where it is not necessary to be born white and affluent to participate in the worldwide trade in goods and knowledge. It's a good bet that those who succeed will end up chained to a rock with birds pecking out their livers, too, but that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do.

>> Again, the initial intent of the internet was that of the 'Library of
>> Human Knowledge', a way for under privilege persons to access knowledge
>> and improve their respective position in Life.
>Ever heard of ARPAnet?
>You are simply wrong.

Here the confusion seems to be that ARPAnet and "the Internet" are two different things. The infrastructure may indeed derive from the military-industrial complex in the U.S. but the Internet is more than its infrastructure. As soon as the infrastructure was there, in fact, university-based teachers and students started harnessing its power for something entirely different -- the sharing of knowledge with anyone who wanted it enough to learn to use a computer and modem. 

I'm guessing most of the people in this group never learned about ARCHIE and Gopher and WAIS but they surely do know the point of inventing HTML and the Web was to make it possible for people in various places with various types of equipment and access to share information with one another, years before anyone figured out how to make people pay by credit card on a Web site. Back at the beginning, one didn't think about trying to make money from the information or cornering the market for some company or making sure that people with low disposable incomes or the "wrong" software couldn't participate fully. One said "here is all this information on my computer and here's this great way to share it with everyone, so why not?"

>> Back to market forces: ??? How many Arial Antennas do you see in your
>> neighborhood ???
>On practically every house.

In Germany, no doubt there are. Here in Canada, about 30% of households can actually afford the $50+ per month for cable or satellite TV; maybe another 20-30% have "grey market" antennas with which they receive television signals illegally (it's a "closed shop" run for the benefit of a small number of companies) and the rest of us do without anything but the local stations we can get with the old rabbit-ears. The percentages will vary considerably, depending on whether you are looking at an affluent society or a poor one. 

In many countries, it's a really big deal to have one television in the town ... just as it was a really big deal in my grandfather's day when he brought the first movie projector into the Carpathians and showed the silent version of "King Kong" in the Town Hall. Sure, there were already real movie theatres in Prague and Paris by then but that didn't do my relatives any good! In the same way, it's no help at all to a person in Bangladesh or Guyana that there are lots of antennas in Munich. Nor is it terribly likely that a German television network will see a great market opportunity in bringing 150 digital channels to Chittagong, where most people can barely afford to feed and shelter themselves.

>> The market in the First world has definitely moved to
>> the TVv6 format, However the Third World is very much tuned in buy Arial
>> transmission TVv4. Why is this? It is a matter of affordability, not
>> market forces, that allow the First World to afford the cost and the
>> Third world find it un-affordable. In other words, People who would
>> benefit the most from the: Learning, History, and Discovery Channels,
>> can not, because they cannot afford it, and the Knowledge escapes them.
>> (Burn the Books)

That's exactly why I find the pressure of TV and digital-broadcast equipment manufacturers on governments to speed the conversion to all-HDTV very distressing. With some 25% of Canadian households relying on food banks and other charities to make ends meet, and another 5% simply not counted because they've already been made homeless by market forces, does it really make sense for public policy -- not to mention taxpayers' money -- to demand that every household find an extra $1000-$2000 to buy a huge HDTV receiver? --Not to me it doesn't! But television, though a major element in our culture, is not an essential tool. Meanwhile in the U.S. we see this:

>A General Accounting Office report says government regulators may need to 
>force additional action by the cable and TV manufacturing industries to 
>spur the transition from analog to digital television. [...] The FCC should >also consider mounting a public-education campaign to inform both consumers >and retailers about digital television. 
>"Generally, market-driven adoption of new technologies 
>is considered best, but the current circumstances in the [digital 
>television] transition suggest that it is unrealistic to anticipate that 
>market forces will bring about the completion of the transition within the 
>originally anticipated time frame," said the report. Congress originally 
>had set a 2006 deadline for the changeover, but only if 85% of all 
>television sets were capable of receiving digital signals. Rep. Edward 
>Markey (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Telecommunications 
>subcommittee, says the GAO's suggested mandates "merit particular 
>attention," and that he plans to draft legislation responding to the 
>report's proposals in the coming weeks. (Wall Street Journal 3 Dec 2002)
(subscription required)
and I can't help but wonder why the big rush.

What burns me far more is the tendency to see the Internet in the same terms. The Government of Quebec spent rather a lot of our money to subsidize upper-middle-income households into buying state-of-the-art computers and signing up for unlimited-hours Internet service from "approved" companies. It was completely *UN*interested in subsidizing the poorer households by the same amount: the goal was to boost the profits of the computer-sellers, the ISPs, and the Quebec companies which wanted to make more money by selling goods online to people with large disposable incomes. Meanwhile, that same government was cutting back funding for school and public libraries where the children from poorer households could access the information they need for their homework -- information the affluent kids can of course get from their own home computers.

The supply-side school of economics likes to pretend that it is right and good to make sure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer but I certainly don't share that ideology. Societies which genuinely believe that all children deserve access to a good education, regardless of their parents' economic status, make their choices accordingly. They direct their funds into equalizing opportunity and reap the fruits -- a better-educated population, a smaller income-gap, less crime, etc. -- while the neoliberals take the opposite tack and create a growing, increasingly hostile underclass which threatens their security. We see it within nations and we also see it between nations these days. 

Modern society is deeply divided as to whether it is better to 
a) be increasingly totalitarian and oppressive to keep the poor down, or
b) make sure the so-called "level playing field" of the marketplace is really level for everyone.
I'm guessing Mr. Steiner would advocate a) rather than b). I'm on the other side of that argument, no matter how many people try to brand me a "communist" for it ... which I'm not, by the way, if anyone cares. 

However, it seems to me that making Web sites accessible only for people with state-of-the-art systems and broadband connections before most of the world has access to any computers or connections at all is deliberately cutting off and disadvantaging most of our fellow-humans. To me that looks unfair ... and doubly so when governments decide, as they often do these days, that they will post information developed at public expense on the Internet rather than print it and will use proprietary formats to do so which mean only people with new(ish) equipment and software can read it.

says only 18% of the public libraries in Spain provide Internet access to their clientele -- 730 of 4056, and in most cases at slow speed. Canada is doing rather better in terms of how many libraries have public access terminals and most of them do have broadband connections but although a slight majority of Canadians have some degree of (not necessarily personal) Internet access at home or at work, the remaining 45% are largely shut out of public consultations, opportunities for free or low-cost education and training, access to job banks. The supreme irony, of course, is that the very people who stand to benefit most personally and stand most to increase their contribution to the country both socially and economically, are the very ones the "free market" won't invest in and would like to prevent governments  from supporting with tax money.

>If you start to give away every book for free how many books would get

Many, many millions -- probably more than are printed now, although most likely different ones. Fewer "How to keep your money away from the taxman with offshore numbered accounts" guides and badly-printed "coffee table" books rushed out for Christmas-gift season to be remaindered on Boxing Day and pulped by the spring, both types being staples of commercial publishing these days. And, freed from the need to sell books like so many bars of soap (in many cases, on the basis of the cover design and market projections before the book is even finished!), the real publishers could concentrate on making books that most people really want or need.* (see below for a publisher's perspective on this.)

We could start by deciding, as a "global village", that we should print enough schoolbooks for every child on the planet, which we certainly don't have now. To our great shame, even in affluent North America we have classrooms where 40 children have access to only 18 copies of the textbook;
in countries like Afghanistan and Haiti, for the most part they have to make do with whatever we in the "West" are willing to donate.

We could continue quite nicely by reprinting all the classic literature of all nations which is now in the public domain, so that everyone who would like to read them can. Right now, even large public and university libraries can't afford to buy all the books they should have, even if one limits the "should have" to the books needed for students to get through their courses.
And maybe we could add all the books by the 90%-or-so of good writers whose works are never accepted by a publisher because they are "not commercial enough". 

Oh, wait a minute! We may not be printing them out at the moment but we are already making a lot of those books available free on the Internet! Now all we have to do is make sure the readers have access to computers and connections...

>Communism doesnt work.

Sure it does! for the pigs -- see Orwell's _Animal Farm_. Remember that the pigs are ALWAYS the first at the trough, whether you call the social system communism or capitalism, while the rest of us are trying to succeed by working hard and playing fair. Pardon my language but to hell with "isms" of all kinds! Let's just behave like human beings.

My version of the Golden Rule is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" rather than "He who has the gold makes the rules" but you can suit yourself... 



* More on Books and Prices
Salon tries to explain "why do books cost so much." Data from Bowker 
shows average hardcover prices more than tripling from 1975 to 2000, 
though on an inflation-adjusted basis they are said to have remained 
basically flat. But mass-market paperback fiction has more than 
quadrupled and juvenile paperbacks have increased 387 percent, 
exceeding inflation by anywhere from 40 to 60 percent.

The article opines that "some of consumers' overall exasperation with 
the cost of books may derive from very real increases in the prices of 
paperbacks," adding that "what's taken a huge bite out of America's book 
budget is the rise of the trade paperback." With the trade paperbacking 
of the backlist, fewer fiction standards are even available in less 
expensive mass market editions any more (the example cited is John 
Updikeís Rabbit Run).

The account notes that very few people on the publishing side are 
getting rich as prices increase. And they quote some crackpot e-
newsletter publisherís continuing refrain about the need to both respond 
to increased competition of titles and stagnant purchasing dollars with 
everything from price experimentation to growing the audience of 
regular readers and repositioning the very act of reading, in which "the 
average person's current school reading experience is "12 to 14 years of 
making people dislike reading or making reading boring."
Salon article

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