Who owns the Internet? We do!

Sat Apr 18 20:45:26 CEST 2009

I've been mostly lurking here since moving on from my work with IP Justice,
but the core of this idea seems sound, even for those of us who approach
policy from a stance separate from (but not necessarily in conflict with)
the spiritual experience.

In economic terms, the precedent exists in infrastructure we often call
"public utilities" (these can be services delivered directly by [local]
government, or in a broader sense, services delivered by private companies
but regulated by government in the public interest).  This often occurs in
the realm of so-called "natural monopolies" where the structure of the
market (high start-up costs, ever-lowering marginal costs) leads to
incentives to have a single service provider (basically because duplicate
or non-interfacing infrastructures are wasteful or less effective, and in
some cases unnecessarily intrusive on public property).

The main point here is that the Internet is no longer "an option" in order
to live a productive life in the 21st Century Technological Society, any
more than recusing oneself from centralized water delivery, electricity
delivery, natural gas, and sewer systems.  Yes, you could carry water up
from a river, burn a wood generator for electricity, purchase propane from
retail stores, have an individual septic system, but these are far less
efficient means of delivering these services than the central services,
especially in urban contexts, and a modern society relies on the
centralized infrastructure to lubricate the economy.

The Internet surely represents a similar advance in communication
infrastructure, and should be viewed in similar ways.

In particular, it should be viewed as a proper domain of public regulation
in the public interest.  And in my view, one of the primary public
interests here is the general principle of "common carriage" which has
precedents in public infrastructure for transportation (bridges, ferries,
roads), but also extends to information services such as telephone and
cable television service (yes, it already extends to telecommunications
services in other technological domains).

So I would argue that the public as a whole has a right to regulate such
services to protect such public interests, even when specific services are
owned and delivered privately.

As for what institutions have standing to represent the public interest,
well, that's a different question.  I personally would want to require some
structural accountability to the general public (not just one subset of the
public, and not on condition of tangential criteria of membership) in order
for any relevant institution to have such standing.

Structuring such accountability is the chief challenge confronting ICANN,
and getting it right (or at least less wrong) seems more important than
ever.  The big question is, who is "we" and how is "we" defined in legal
and representative terms?


Any opinions expressed in this message are those of the author alone and do
not necessarily reflect any position of the author's employer.

At 7:19 AM -0700 4/18/09, Marc Perkel wrote:
>Dear fellow idea collaborators,
>It's interesting to me to see different constituencies that seem to
>think they own the Internet. Especially in the commercial world. As the
>founder of the Church of Reality I want to register our claim of
>ownership of the Internet. My reasoning is as follows:
>The invention of the Internet is the most significant step in human
>evolution since the development of speech. To regulate the Internet
>would be like corporations claiming that they own the air we breathe and
>that they get to control it and charge us to use the atmosphere. I
>contend that like the air we breathe and the water we drink and the food
>we eat that the Internet is an extension of our biological minds and a
>tool through which humanity thinks collectively. Like food, air, and
>water, thought should not be under the control of commercial entities.
>Thought belongs to the People of the world.
>The Church of Reality is a religion. We are not a Bible based religion
>but to us the Internet is referred to as the sacred router. It is like a
>Temple to us and it is where the Church of Reality exists. So for
>commercial entities to run the Internet would be equivalent in the
>Christian world to the "whores and money changers" that Jesus drove out
>of the Temple with a whip. I am not however suggesting that the
>commercial world be driven off the web, but neither should they be
>allowed to dominate it.
>In the future the Internet will continue to evolve and serve humanity.
>It will become the nervous system of the body of the human race. The
>Church of Reality sees our existence in both the individual state and in
>our collective state as we are part of a single evolving organism that
>includes everyone on earth, and all like in the ecosystem of this planet
>on which we all mutually depend. The Internet allow me to share this
>view with the rest of you so that we as those entrusted with a sacred
>trust can contemplate together to envision the future of humanity and
>what role the Internet will play in that future.
>The Church of Reality sees the future as our "Sacred Direction" and we
>see ourselves as taking responsibility for the decisions that humanity
>makes collectively so as to ensure that the "Life Story" of the human
>race continues in a positive direction. In order to do that we have to
>be there when important decisions are made so as to alter the trajectory
>of humanity to ensure the "Positive Evolution" of our collective
>existence. That is the basis for the Principle of Positive Evolution so
>that in the future our understanding of reality will increase over time
>and our religious mission will be fulfilled.
>We therefore claim custody of the Internet for the religious world so
>that we can continue to use it as a tool to link our ideas together and
>contemplate our role in the universe and the significance of our
>existence. As we here in this email forum contemplate ICANN issues so
>should every other group be able to link minds and contemplate anything
>humanity chooses to contemplate. Through us and over the Internet
>reality contemplate it's own existence. That is not something that can
>be owned by the commercial world.
>Marc Perkel
>First One
>Church of Reality
>"If it's real we post it on the web"

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