Earlier this week Cory Doctorow linked to a new digital manifesto, yet another foggy declaration of internet freedom. One of the more dubious points is this proclamation:
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
By declaring this as a (philosophical) positive right, it becomes little more than a euphemism for ‘let us get taxpayers to pony up to pay for net access for everyone.’
A principled manifesto, one that removes all grey areas, taxpayer subsidies, all wiggle room for abuse — can be summed up in 24 words I came up with on the subway tonight:
Deregulate all telecommunication activity, privatize all state-owned telecom assets (publicly auctioned off), legalize telecom competition and private ownership of telecom-related property — at any and all levels, including the last-mile.
There. Hands off the internet. If you want to start-up a competing ISP, no government will have legal authority to interfere. And if that is not good enough, if you want to sound verbose on your twitters, I can think of nothing more direct and explicit than what the Sultan of the fictional country of Kinakuta said in Cryptonomicon:
[T]otal freedom of information. I hereby abdicate all government power over the flow of data across and within my borders. Under no circumstances will any part of this government snoop on information flows, or use its power to in any way restrict such flows.
Incidentally Ron Paul, the one libertarian-minded politician in Congress, is also drawing up a more principled manifesto in his new crusade for internet freedom. Paul agrees that declarations such as the one Doctorow links to are nebulous:
“The revolution is occurring around the world,” [Paul's manifesto] reads. “It is occurring in the private sector, not the public sector. It is occurring despite wrongheaded attempts by governments to micromanage markets through disastrous industrial policy. And it is driven by the Internet, the single greatest catalyst in history for individual liberty and free markets.”
“Internet collectivists are clever,” [Paul's] manifesto says, accusing their foes of series of Orwellian linguistic twists. “They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control. ‘Openness’ means government control of privately owned infrastructure. ‘Net neutrality’ means government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral’.”
“This is our revolution — government needs to get out of the way,” [Paul's] manifesto concludes.
While I do not necessarily endorse Paul’s manifesto either (in large part because it is pro-IP), I have argued recently elsewhere that the government (of all levels) is a key culprit standing in the way of technological progress.
Here is to hoping that efforts to further (re)nationalize the tubes will not germinate — remember, it used to be completely owned by government granted monopolies: AT&T and the NSF. So just say no to a National Broadband Policy.