There is no there there.

So says Gibson in Neuromancer. But since then, in novels, movies, and television we are given many visions of what is there. And with all those extraordinary special effects, what we see are obviously psychedelic eye candy.

But this doesn’t change the fact that there is nothing there. At least, no thing. Yes, there are cables, routers, all the paraphernalia that Cisco Systems makes, as it tell us in those marvelously crafted commercials. But still, the important thing is not the things, but the architecture, the coding that allows what goes through the internet to go through the internet.

The story is told of Paul Baran who early on--I forget the year--suggested to the U.S. government something that looks like the internet today. This is an old story. And the government sent the proposal to its "outside" advisors--AT&T--who wanted nothing to do with something that it couldn’t control.

Why would any private tyranny, as Noam Chomsky has called corporations, permit anything on their own network they couldn’t control? Why indeed!

The argument is made that only with the breakup of AT&T, and the establishment of e2e--end to end--or “smart applications, stupid networks”, could the internet as we have known it, grown up.

But back to the "no there there". We, and particularly Americans, see what their universal culture, their civil religion leads them to see: that the internet grew up free from government regulation, totally in the private sector, and that any government involvement will kill it.

Of course, the truth is exactly the opposite.

And we see a further contradiction occurring the Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA. What is this but a regulation of the internet, and a regulation that affects the world in a way the United States would never permit any other country to impose on it. But then, that’s the American burden.

Another old story is iCrave TV. The Canadian website that tried to make available television on the internet. Not for long. It is perfectly legal in Canada to rebroadcast television signals when the fees have been paid to the regulator. But not in the United States. It was shut down by an American Court. Not the first exercise of extraterritoriality on Canada by the United States, but a significant one for the new century.

Intellectual property is a notion that is fraught with passion, here on everything as everywhere else. In the United States it has always been the province, not of the individual inventor, or author, but of powerful interests, regardless of the ideology--Eli Whitney never reaped the benefits of his invention of the cotton-gin, Charles Goodyer never road down easy street on the royalties from his invention of the process of the vulcanization of rubber.

Today, with AOL-TimeWarner-EMI, and more especially with AT&T we see the recreation of the old telephone network, as it was under the AT&T before it was broken up by the evil government--the same evil government that is now trying to break up Microsoft.

eCommerce is enclosing the commons that was the internet, just as the agrarian revolution in England enclosed the commons that was the land.

Only government regulation, if not a true public sector, can restablish and protect the intellectual commons that was the first vision of the internet, the information superhighway that is no longer spoken of.

Some rather interesting repercussions have taken place in the private sector, though. While privacy abuse is rampant, sometimes things get corrected in the end.

Examples:

Toys R Us

Tracked users without their knowledge, sold and shared their database with third parties. Now they have problems with 11 class-action lawsuits and their stock has dropped.

DoubleClick

Another bozo company that tracked and traced people using cookies/web bugs. Bought a company with a huge consumer database, began to cross reference people. Linked their surfing with their actual names, addresses, etc. What do they win? Why, a Federal Trade Commission investigation, started by EPIC.

Amazon.Com

They suddenly just announced they will not guarantee they will not sell or rent your info to any dork with a checkbook. They've had a buttload of regular customers stop doing buisness with them, they've had complaints filed by EPIC, and the press has been hammering them.

Yes, these are ripples in the sea of privacy, but things do happen.

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