Sunday, November 25, 2012

December 3rd: ITU, U.N. could end the free Internet

Lots of worried voices have claimed that various large corporations such as Microsoft, Google, or others would restrict the freedom of the exchange of information on the Internet.

I have always considered these worries silly – and I will always count the people with a hardwired corporation-phobia to be hardcore communists. In particular, none of the IT or communication corporations has ever had a sufficient monopoly to stop the flow of the information – and most of the largest ones are literally motivated to support as diverse ways of exchanging the information as possible because their profit really boils down to these processes.

The free market works, stupid.

But here is a similar threat I find much more credible. Between December 3rd and December 14th, there will be a conference of the ITU, the 1865 International Telegraph Union (that changed the middle word to "Telecommunication" to create the illusion that its core has been modernized but it has not) which became a U.N. agency, in Dubai.

A majority vote behind the closed door may bring a radical power grab which could seriously cripple the freedom of the online exchange of information.

You may sign a Google Petition against the possible ITU power grab.

It may look like the civilized countries generally oppose the undesirable developments. For example, The European Parliament voted in advance to block an ITU power grab. But those things won't be decided by the European lawmakers.

The idea of a majority U.N.-style vote about important questions such as the freedom on the Internet looks somewhat worrisome to me. It's very easy to imagine that the anti-freedom-on-the-Internet countries represent a majority in the United Nations. Start with the obvious hardcore villains such as China and Iran and add softer governments of a remotely similar kind such as Russia. You may surround them with pretty much all the countries in the Muslim world, almost the whole remainder of Africa, some of their allies in Latin America, and so on. I think you will easily find out that the villains enjoy a majority in the U.N.

Now, when those folks get a majority U.N. support for such a similar plan, will the Western world's governments be sufficiently assertive to reject all truly sick policies (government approval of websites, custom duty or tariffs, and so on) that the coalition around China, Iran, and Russia could prefer? Will they really clearly say that they're ready to wage a nuclear war against the villains to protect the freedom on the most important information infrastructure of the early 21st century? They definitely should. But there are so many people who are hysterically afraid of a nuclear war that they could just prefer to say OK to the Chinese and Iranian comrades.

These mysterious villains behind the closed doors – and not the corporations skillfully controlled by the almost always beneficial invisible hand of the free markets – is what your humble correspondent is kind of afraid of.


  1. What seems to be most funny is, that people never realize, that there is no reason why corporations should be sucking them dry while government would protect them. The first thing rich corporations do it "buy" themselves a government. If you look at it, most, if not all, monopoly are maintained with government contribution And while old fashion corporation would have to force you to buy voluntarily whatever it was they were selling, nowadays they mostly use government getting money fromyour pocket and give it to them.

    So it is hard to see, how you contract corporation-fobia, yet stay clear of government-fobia, if government is in fact the biggest corporation in the country.

    Even here it seems to be painfully obvious, that the easiest way to get internet "under control" is to use governments.

  2. Huh, that scares me too :-(

    Would the US support the villains? I guess rather not, so maybe they together with the EU could do something about it, if things go very wrong ?

    But I dont really know ... :-/

  3. Well, the government guys are the villains. If they were not, they would earn the money, rather then collect taxes. ;-) There are good reasons, why villains tend to concentrate in governments. (Read A. F. Hayek) And EU will definitely not do anything about that. For goodness sake, they are banning incandescent light-bulbs among another 1000/day dumb regulations they are producing, They have neither time not desire to fight for freedom in any shape or form. ;-)

  4. It is impossible to "force" someone to buy something "voluntarily."

  5. Has anyone else noticed that it's very easy to forget to logoff from Disqus?

  6. It is possible, of course. ;-) But let's not get into free will problems.

    You would have say "make" instead of "force" perhaps? But than again, I live in country where "Mandatory Voluntary Work" seems to be quite usual expression which most do not perceive as contradictory. Strangely, least of all university professors of humanities. ;-)

  7. Lubos,

    The White Spaces Coalition- consists of eight large technology
    companies that plan to deliver high speed broadband internet access beginning in February 2009 to United States consumers via existing 'white space' in unused television frequencies between 54-698 MHz (TV
    Channels 2-51). The coalition expects speeds of 10 Mbyte/s and above, and 50 to 100 Mbyte/s for white space short-range networking.[1] The group includes Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink,
    and Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

    Nothing communistic about this:) So a lot has happened since then.

    Signals that came through your rabbit ears on the old televisions, as if a "defunct spectrum" were sold by governments and has become purchased space. As if, you were paying for the rays of the sun.

    If you understood this before, and then saw it's history in the making, you would realize that spectrum was free once. Money in advertising was gained by people watching what the broadcasters had to offer.

    The rest is to follow.....and not everyone is happy. Supposed communistic users,
    or not.

  8. Let me just extend this subject for you to say that usage based billing is a method in which to extract dollars from resources, and the previous example it should become plain to see.

    This is an example, as if one would tie them self to some meter as a result and find that you use electricity from companies so it is that such conversions are the way of the free market? The move from public funding to privatization.

    I thought this would be helpful to you so you see a greater dynamic is then just a side of life that seeks to educate all of society and not to be restraint by the almighty dollar.

    Your fellow scientists use public funded money.

  9. Apologies, Plato, I mostly don't understand what you're saying (the year 2009 was 3 years ago and it makes no sense to plan it now) and how it is relevant for the topic of this thread, namely for the freedom of information on the Internet at the end of 2012.

    The current market price of "usage" of the Internet is clearly close to zero so when you talk about "usage based billing", whatever you're talking about, it sounds scary.

  10. No, it's not possible. No, there's no need of getting into free will problems. No, saying "make" instead of "force" wouldn't help.

    The problem is one of language, not the world described by language. For example, were we to discover that some acts which we now call forced are voluntary, we should stop calling them "forced," or perhaps we should redefine one or both of the words. We should not merely say, "Some forced acts are voluntary." We can put up with a certain amount of incorrect naming, such as "mandatory voluntary work," without becoming too confused, but this doesn't make it correct.

  11. Is it a coincidence that two UN Organisaions with limiting freedom on their agenda choose to hold their meetings in islamistic countries?

  12. Hi Lubos,

    To all appearances I am a communist has to be determined based on one's past history and the biases it introduces. So you say.

    Usage based billing is very real Lubos. Conversion techniques to market controls is to devise how you can segment a resource to get more for it. That is a simple way to "make money."

    Libraries and the move to E-books, maintain the idea that cost to maintain access to information and knowledge has already been taxed.

    Why would one have pay for access too, when it has already been established by the will of the people to make that information available to lift people up from their ignorance and then have it aligned with data usage and the devices that are produce by the respective companies.

    The spectrum should have allowed for these contingencies and regardless of 2009, this is still an issue today.

    The nefarious plan :) was to take over the broadcasting and divvy it up to these companies as now TV can now be charged.

    It is of consequence that we might see universities open their doors to lectures as well, yet this too is tied to data usage. You are counting the difference in bits versus video you see? The Library can be gained access too, on wireless .

    So while you provide a free service out of your devoting to science I am glad.....yet my counter is still adding up.:) I don't consider you a communist:)


  13. Sorry, I don't have a clue what you're saying.

    Usage based billing is one obvious type of calculating fees for communication-related services. Until a few years ago, I was paying usage based billing service for my Internet - and I am obviously still doing so for telephone.

    The cap I used to have was too constraining and slower traffic followed afterwords. They abolished the cap, anyway, but if they had not, I would have to switch to something more acceptable for me.

    The providers try to make a sufficient profit. To do so, they have to make make the fees as high and as diverse as possible, but low enough so that consumers don't start to escape to competition (or nowhere). What is your problem with that? It's called the free market.

    Why would one have pay for access too...

    Because all these services require a "serviceman" to do some work of many types and the value of his work may only be fairly determined by the balance between the supply and demand. This includes the actual technical job needed to transmit information and guarantee that it's transmitted reliably; copyrights; the technical work needed to copy mediums or books or CDs or whatever, and other things. Those activities aren't done automatically by Mother Nature. They require the work of the people and the people or corporations are obviously doing those things because they're compensated in some way, mostly by money, they have an unquestionable human right to do so, and the price may only be determined by the free market, unless a society lives in a totalitarian system.

  14. Lubos:By the way, you write one more disgusting blackmailing comment about your counters and you're banned. Deal.


    Google and companies understand me perfectly :)

  15. The good news is the UN has been remarkably ineffective at doing anything, well except for panicking people about global warming.