04.30.11

Internet access as a commodity

Posted in Phlogiston, Predator State at 5:42 pm by George Smith

In another sign of national decline, or the inability to do anything other now more advanced western nations do, AT&T begins limiting its DSL customers on Monday. Unlimited Internet access is over here.

DD is an AT&T. The service is already frequently abysmal.

Natch, the reason for this is because none of the big corporate Internet providers want to see their profit margins expand as more people watch high def television and movies on the Internet. They view throughput and capacity as premium commodities. As a consequence, they’ve had little incentive to improve their infrastructure, always preferring the short term highest profit margins.

In the meantime, US broadband access compared to peer nations is putrid. The story has been repeated so many times in the mainstream news media it requires minimal citation. If you live here, you know it.

(A pile from Google — here.)

If one were actually serious about winning the future, our fearless leader might make the case for Internet access as a utility, rather than just another premium service the profitable big providers can use to soak people for the sake of even more profit.


In related matters, ducks to the golden fool, ol’ sci-fi and libertarian author David Brin. I’ve accidentally caught two of his last columns for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, where he’s a fellow.

The first has him as a late joiner to the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy which really doesn’t need another cheerleader as EMPAct America and the Heritage Foundation have filled the squad with A-listers.

With Roscoe Bartlett, Islamo-phobe birthers Trent Franks and Frank Gaffney, JJ Carafano and William Forstchen in the stable, there’s really no need for a David Brin. How could he compare?

Anyway, Brin’s newest column is on “Internet Access as a Human Right,” which sounds good, I think we can all agree. Don’t tell AT&T.

However, once the piece builds up a head of steam Brin starts yapping about government and economic transparency. In and of itself, coming it as it does out of someone who has apparently been living in the US in the last ten years, is a a laff riot.

Particularly when he gets to addressing Libya:

According to this Washington Post article, when the U.S. Treasury Department froze Libyan assets, they expected to find $100 million, but found over $30 billion—mostly all in one bank. To put this in perspective, in 2009, Libya had a gross domestic product of $62 billion.

Say what? Thirty billion dollars? If this cash pile is matched by similar revelations re Egypt and Tunisia and other toppled despotisms, can you doubt that economic transparency will become a truly radical cause during the twenty-teens?

Only in this case, we’re talking about a “radicalism of reasonableness.” A militancy of moderation. A fervent and dynamic worldwide call for governments and corporations and oligarchs and rulers and economies and everybody simply to play fair. Compete fair. To rule fairly, the way Adam Smith and F. Hayek and nearly all cogent economists of left and right agree we must, if society is to be healthy at all.

A radicalism that Louis Brandeis spoke of when he prescribed the one thing that keeps a society healthy: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

A “radicalism of reasonableness.” “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” I can see Steve rolling his eyes if he ever reads this.

Let’s start with those despot nations, (he doesn’t mention our rather un-transparent and systemically unreasonable society), reads Brin’s piece.

We could shower the despot nations with free satellite phones, free Internet access from the Commando Solo air plane — the former possibly to be called volksradios, a name coined by Brin.

One of the characteristics of the clueless futurist is how he or she write pieces which are unintentional parodies.

Holed up in plush digs where no one emits the bark of a sarcastic horselaugh under penalty of expulsion, it does no good to reflect on our own fail. Not when dreaming of the export of wonderful things we no longer do or own — like in this case, transparency, to others.

Brin’s piece is well-meaning crap and it’s here. It does make obvious he’s been out of circulation for awhile.


Way back in grad school I read one of Brin’s big books, Startide Rising. It was about talking dolphins and big ideas, I think. It’s now so embarrassing to recall I don’t even wanna talk about it. That was almost thirty years ago.

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