Today, a friend asked me a very serious question on Facebook. It prompted the following exchange, quoted as closely as possible.

Stewart Dickson posted to Brian Duggan

2 hours ago near Urbana, IL

OK, which is worse? NSA PRISM or the Verison overturn of Net Neutrality? I am coming to think more and more that those who say that the Government is the enemy really mean that they no longer wish to obey the law of the land. So, NSA PRISM doesn't really bother me that much. The corporate anarchists are also leaving -- taking the jobs overseas -- and also enforcing their own law on other countrys where they do work -- the TPP. This is whack. How do you fix this?

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Brian Duggan: I try to start by asking whom the fix will work for. According to the government, military, and private sector, the Internet is working just fine. They disagree slightly about whether the US should be able spy on internal discussions in and among giant corporations. But they are largely in agreement that it's fine to spy on everyone in the world and to implement preferential access to Internet bandwidth.

2 hours ago · Like

Brian Duggan: Right now, the US is exerting nearly absolute technical and governing dominance of the Internet. Its function is to cultivate worldwide markets for the private interests based in US and its allies. Will "fixing" Net Neutrality really mean that everyone will automatically be able to host their own infrastructure? Or will it just mean that we have a choice between Comcast and Netflix in where we get our TV?

about an hour ago · Like

Brian Duggan: Will "fixing" NSA spying mean that the people of the world will be able to organize and speak out against unjust authority? Or will it mean that everyone's communications are fair game for spying while internal discussions at JP Morgan are private and its communications with ConAgra are private?

about an hour ago · Like · 1

Brian Duggan: I'm not really sure what my definition of "fixing" is, yet. I do want private communications, but I'm not sure it's important for me to have private or free communications over the Internet with someone or a group on the others side of the world. But it is important to me that I can participate in organizing realistic alternatives to corporate and government power among my neighbors for the purpose of eliminating discrimination and abuse from those powers. But the FCC, NSA, and Google do not share that interest. I have to assume that power. I have to work with my community to seize that ability, while under surveillance, while not having fair access to Internet bandwidth.

about an hour ago · Like

Brian Duggan: So I guess my answer is that it's going to get fixed one way or the other. But the US won't do it alone. Other states and corporations are going to throw up roadblocks or challenges or section the Internet outright. The people those decisions impact the most, the people who comprise markets and citizenry, need to figure out whether and how to have a voice in those decisions. We don't right now.

about an hour ago · Like

Brian Duggan: What do you think, Stewart?

about an hour ago · Like

Stewart Dickson: I think that the ultimate fix for Comcast is Effective Competition -- E.g., Municipally-owned fiber-to-the-curb (First-Mile, not "last-mile"!) overbuilds. The internet is ultimately a peer-ot-peer, flat network -- Tin-can-and-string from house to house, which spans the globe. (The long-haul backbones are the only problemmatic link, where centralization seems necessary.) I may be able to get onto UC2B at home by June of this year. I think that before I start sucking TOR bandwidth, I need to host a TOR node of my own. It's only right, don't you think? :)

about an hour ago · Unlike · 1

Brian Duggan: Yeah, absolutely. The long-haul backbones are exactly where other states are threatening US dominance right now. See: the BRICS cable. But that cable will still be owned and operated in the interest of its owners. Their interests are to ensure that their governments and resident corporations don't get spied on by the NSA. But they reserve the right to spy on their own citizens. Right now, none of the first-mile infrastructure is cooperatively owned. UC2B was a great opportunity (thought local to Urbana-Champaign), lost. What about backbones and Internet exchange points and ISP networks? Effective competition to Comcast is another player. Effective competition for a community is another player that is controlled by the community.

about an hour ago · Like

Brian Duggan: And right on for hosting a Tor node! Even if you never need or use anonymity, diversity in the infrastructure space is essential to anonymity!

about an hour ago · Like