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I definitely agree that a distinction needs to be drawn between a right to speak freely and a right to be heard. Often, the line seems to be blurred, and the discussions in our class tend towards adopting the implicit assumption that just because someone’s on their soapbox in the town square, everyone in that square is listening… Andrea brings up a good point, and it reminds me of something I tried to bring up in class when we were originally discussing whether or not the internet should be recognized as a public forum: the difference between push and pull media. While I don’t completely agree with a lot of the reasoning in the Pacifica case (Carlin’s “Filthy Words” skit)—mainly that the radio is some magic box that the user somehow can’t control—I think it is actually more relevant to the internet, where you might legitimately end up at a site you had no intention of going to (again, an area where I disagree with the Supreme Court’s assessment of the technology). But the bigger issue that I see is that if we FORCE providers into allowing a public forum, where would you stop? Can I not browse in the privacy of my own home without having to put up with your shlop? Even if I take means to protect myself from that? At least in the case of public forum, I can walk through the town square with ear-muffs, avoid it altogether, or, the classic, avert my eyes… So, back to Andrea’s point, how again am I infringing your First Amendment rights by choosing not to listen?
Goblin, you have served your purpose well, congrats. I was also struck by how quickly the article seemed to accept the possibility that decentralized internet governance is even attainable. I think that sometimes we underestimate just how lazy people really are. For instance, I have a really hard time believing that people will really put that much effort into “governing” their own internet space, and that it will really be the ISP’s that determine the rules of the game. And even though there are multiple ISP’s, and those ISP’s could presumably compete at different levels of governance, I don’t think that they’ll differ much at the end of the day. Even if they do, I would think that price and connection speed would be a bigger driver of adoption than would a particular ISP’s internet governance policy. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe people are more active than I imagine. Or maybe even if they aren’t, we should be looking at those actors who are more active and what those marginal consumers might do to the market, but I do think that the authors dismiss this problem too quickly.
Toggle Commented Feb 21, 2007 on Communities Managing Crime. at Cairns Blog
The internet bus idea is great, and it's good to see that it has caught on in other areas as well. Even though it is too expensive to be adopted on a wide-scale, the bus seems to attract more attention and more use than other alternatives. This is great if it leads to more youth having access to the Internet; hopefully it will foster not only creativity and connectivity but will also allow avenues that may help those individuals get off the streets. Also, even if the buses can't be deployed universally (because of funding limitations), they might help drive foot traffic to other, less costly alternatives. Permanent installations, in shelters, soup kitchens, or even free cafes, would be much cheaper. And as long as they were used, they'd certainly be worth the cost. Even though you wouldn't think it would be a problem getting people into such locations, the article seems to suggest that there was a lack of interest. Buses could cure that.
I agree that the current mood surrounding digital rights management is incredibly dangerous. But I don't blame the content providers; I blame Congress for reaching way too far with the DMCA. Of course, it WAS the content providers that pushed Congress that far, but the owners of the big media companies are like children: you can humour them every once in a while, but you can't let them run the show. Congress should have been more responsible. Without the DMCA, content providers would still be free to protect their media however they saw fit. Forbidding content providers from implementing DRM technology would, after all, be restricting their free expression to present their content in whatever manner they see fit. But without the DMCA looming overhead, users would be free to hack that technology as they saw fit. Thus, their free speech would also be protected. Congress completely unbalanced the system with the passage of the DMCA, and continued restrictions in use seem inevitable in the future.
Toggle Commented Feb 7, 2007 on Rights = Restrictions at Cairns Blog
It's a nice idea, but I don't see it working. First off, even if the FCC puts aside a certain amount of time each week to talk about certain topics on an agenda, how are they going to make sure that it's "fair"? Even if the FCC thinks that it's fully representing both sides, it seems prone to break back down into equal time for each position--otherwise, everyone's going to complain that their side isn't equally represented. Also, what criteria is the FCC going to use to determine which sides of the argument get to make it to primetime? (What if someone wants to get in on the global warning roundtable who thinks that the whole global warning issue is a conspiracy plot by Martians using their Gore-bot to distract us while they plan an assault?) Does a certain percentage of the public have to buy into that theory? How's the FCC going to determine that? As alluded to before, the beauty of the internet is that it has opened a plethora of avenues to ANY position (if ridiculous ones, see above), all of which can be advocated and discussed. One final point, even if the FCC figures out (1) what IS fair, (2) how to make media coverage fair, and (3) how to get Americans to watch "fair" coverage (another issue too long to go into here); they still have to make us believe it's fair. Perception is everything, and it seems unlikely to me that most people would actually see heavily regulated media as providing any more of a fair and balanced viewpoint as anyone else.
While I see the dangers of doing away with net neutrality to some extent, I think that they may be exaggerated. As long as there’s a basic level of internet service available to all sites, regardless of content, I think the “last mile” concept goes a long way towards heightening the user experience and increasing incentives for innovations. To be clear, I see “blocking” (or effectively blocking by providing sub-standard service to some sites) as bad. Bad, bad, bad. But I also see personalization and the ability to adapt to user’s preferences and abilities as one of the driving forces of the internet. To me, partnerships that further those relationships could significantly increase creativity and expression without hindering it. Even though ISP’s are currently neutral as to the content that they are providing, that doesn’t mean that every internet connection is the same. User’s still have a multitude of options as to how they’ll access information—dial-up, DSL, broadband—and a significant deterrence to higher speed and/or more convenient access to the Internet is cost. Doing away with net neutrality could change some of that: even if I can’t afford the super-fast DSL option at the top end of the spectrum, what if I could go with a lower over-all plan that had a specific partnership with a given website or number of websites that provides faster service to those sites? For example, I love to watch sports—I’d watch them all day long if I could. I like to watch my teams, I like to scout other teams, I like to stay abreast of what’s going on in related areas, etc. A lot of that content is now available for viewing online, and I could theoretically access it anywhere that I had my computer and, let’s say, a broadband connection. However, I can’t afford the high-end broadband connection, and without that the delays in streaming video or audio content make it almost painful to access any of this content. If my provider (say, AT&T/Cingular) had a partnership with a content provider (say, ESPN) that established an ultra-high speed connection to the sponsored sites without having to get the full-on, bells-and-whistle package, maybe I’d be able to afford such a service, thus increasing my choice of programming and ease of use. Granted, my watching sports isn’t particularly valuable to society, nor is it likely to implicate my “free speech.” However, we could imagine a similar scenario in which a site is set up where users form communities around editing videos or music to create new work. These sites would require the same type of enhanced broadband capacity, and allowing for net discrimination could similarly increase participation among those who would otherwise be too poor to collaborate. This all assumes that the increased coverage to certain sites wouldn’t come at the expense of coverage to other sites. I don’t think this is unreasonable because ISP’s are still going to have the incentive to provide quality service to the entire web. Their user’s are not generally going to be one-stop shoppers, and even if they prefer increased coverage of certain sites, they’ll likely complain if access to other areas of the web is TOO slow. Further, legislation could provide a back-stop measure of absolute, bottom-line coverage for all websites, which would obviously be a moving standard depending on the technology available at the time.
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2007 on Inefficiency for Users at Cairns Blog