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David Hughes, Col (Ret)
Online 24/7 since 1977
Area of Expertise:
Damaging Control by Big Telcos in League with Government
Increasingly, the incumbent telephone companies in league with governments and telephone companies are succeeding in controlling the Internet
The original bright promise of an open standards, very low cost, unlicensed (free) broadband wireless as well as wireline global Internet interconnectivity between people, institutions, businesses, and organizations, faces being limited, constrained, fraught with oppressive government regulation, new laws, made more costly, with fewer choices, for both individuals and grass roots, especially rural ISPs.
Lack of profound understanding by politicians of the revolutionary human-communications nature and potential of the Internet, and the political and economic clout by traditional telephone companies, has spawned an unhealthy alliance between traditional large incumbent Telephone Companies, including foreign government owned PTTs, compliant governments, non-democratic governments and now even International organizations. Control is the goal.
Especially Voice over IP (VOIP), blogs by small organizations, web sites by grass roots people, ISPs, especially those in rural areas where - in the US alone 25% of the population lives on 97% of the land area - are already being affected.
In lesser-developed countries with non-democratic governments, from vast China and tiny Nepal to Cuba, government control of human 'communications' is the issue. For all the political talk of 'Freedom of Speech' there are large constituencies who want no such thing. Or only want such speech (which includes interactive digital voice, text, image, photography, video) to be delivered through commercial networks favored by government, including in the US, by the FCC.
I am able to assert this rather pessimistic view from my 28 years as one of the earliest pioneers in grass roots digital people to people communications - from free local political-discussion computer bulletin boards (1977) store and forward, pre TCP-IP, (UUCP and Fidonet) over telephone lines (1984), through metro area fiber and cable lines and services, (1990) to unlicenced (Wi-Fi now) NSF funded wireless connectivity (1995). And even by costly satellite internet, which can reach any spot on the globe.
I have connected up 114 one-room schools in Montana for distance learning by MIT professors, taught credit course by telecom, linked remote peoples and their institutions in Mongolia, extended broadband into rural Celtic Wales where British Telecom refused, to empowering Sherpas on Mt Everest via free Wi-Fi radio connectivity to Satellite IP services. And I have operated, for 23 years a small entrepreneurial urban Internet Service which is known globally. I have seen both the potential and the reaction from incumbent companies and governments.
I am not optimistic.