Disintermedia has been quiet for the past few months, after the initial burst of activity when I set up the space on OpenPlans.org. After the death of my paternal grandmother in late November, I took a 3 month break from the internet. I spent time with whānau and friends, and getting out into the environment of Te Wai Pounamu. The internet can be addictive. It can become a substitute for real world contact with other people, whether for purely social, or organizational purposes. It was nice to unplug for a while.

 

It was also good to have a chance to do some serious thinking about what the internet development movement has accomplished in the ten years or so that I’ve been spending time online. The net now offers us so many tools for keeping in touch with people, that I am now potentially connected with many more friends and associates than I could regularly communicate with. All of them come with privacy implications, for example government departments now checking people’s FaceHook profiles for clues to possible fraud. In fact, government departments can now officially serve court papers to people through FaceHook, as reported in the Domination Post.

 

Let’s not forget that the net also offers us a broad range of tools for investigating, reporting, and organizing against abuses of power and responsibility. It’s my theory that the various attacks on the independence, and freedom, of the net that I wrote about in my first few posts are a response to the glare of public attention that has been focused in places the establishment would prefer to keep in the shade. First they came for the ISPs…

 

There are a number of issues to consider, some of them political, some of them technical. At the moment, the internet is effectively a subservice of the wired networks owned by a small number of multinational telecommunications corporations, such as our own Telecom. In fact, with Telecom planning to switch all voice-calling over to internet style packet-switching, and the increasing popularity of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems, the proliferation of digital television, and YouTube style internet video, the distinction between the internet and other forms of telecommunications and broadcast media are becoming ever more blurred. It may be though that the most free, and robust internet could be that built from a wireless mesh - a system using community wireless hotspots, connected through some kind of longer-range radio. Possibly governments will proceed with an assumption of ownership of the electro-magnetic frequency, just as they did the foreshore and seabed, and continue to chop it up and assign different parts of it to corporate interests. But just as guard bands have been made available for low-power community use of FM radio, community wireless frequencies could be campaigned for, and the work of doing so could actually encourage the technical development of non-profit wireless mesh networking.

 

So long as the wired networks are sustainable though, they make use of a common property - the Earth and the oceans- and they should be run in ways that serve the public interest. Community wireless may turn out to be as accessible to the average person as ham radio, and I’m not ready to surrender the ‘mainstream’ internet without a fight.

Filed April 4th, 2009 under Uncategorized
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