[NetBehaviour] Long Live the Web.

James Wallbank james at lowtech.org
Mon Nov 22 10:48:42 CET 2010


Well said, Tim Berners-Lee!

However, we should not get too depressed by imminent traffic-filtering 
and shaping, walled gardens and so on. I agree with Alan's comment:
> I keep thinking backing to Fidonet and BBS; these kinds of private 
> networks might become deeply relevant again.
Yes, absolutely. I'd suggest if you want to keep your chin up think 
about these two key concepts:

(1) Information wants to be free.
(2) We are in control.

If it does become the case that the "mainstream internet" becomes less 
than useful due to the interventions of ISPs, commercial content 
providers, paranoid governments and so on, then data WILL ROUTE AROUND 
those blockages. And we will help it.

Back in the days of FidoNet there was a functional, free, world-wide 
email network, entirely built and created by amateurs, That was before 
broadband, before Ronja, before WiFi... before 56kBs modems... even 
before USB sticks!

Now we have more tools to communicate than ever.

For some years I've been skeptical about the strategic significance of 
local WiFi cloud infrastructures like "Consume.Net" because I've felt 
that it's perfectly feasible and convenient to piggyback on existing 
very cheap infrastructures, and these DIY peer-to-peer WLANs further 
ignore the need for long range connectivity. The key issue is whether we 
(the community of net users) can create independent, LONG RANGE data pipes.

Trust me, we can. It may be a pain in the behind, but if a restricted 
web becomes more of a pain in the behind, we will. If not by 
piggybacking on existing infrastructures with stealth protocols, then by 
building our own.

Infrastructures like Ronja can be community owned. A key technical 
problem is how (cheaply and legally) to build long distance links, not 
just 50-metre wifi hotspots. Ronja ($200 for a pair) pushes the limit to 
more than 1km, but I believe 10km and 100km+ links would be needed to 
create an independent, creative community digital infrastructure.

Do we need our own satellite? (Bish, bosh, just knock one up and get it 
into orbit?)

But satellites are so old fashioned. All those steam-powered rockets and 
Victorian spacemen? Not at all carbon neutral! What we need is something 
cheaper, lighter, better, higher-tech and home-made. Who needs a NASA 
fabrication facility when you have a double garage?

I suggest clouds of robotic mini-airships, flying at around 20km 
altitude. Each one should cost only around $2000 per operational year, 
with a lifespan of around 10 years. A major city could be covered by 
just one or two. Maybe float up four or five for a bit of redundancy - 
here in the UK a few dozen would cover the entire nation - job done!

Alternatively (and even more cheaply, and quickly) we could train homing 
pigeons to carry USB memory sticks between independent media centres. 
The data transfer rate with pigeoned 360GB sticks is very respectable. 
(Though the latency may be less impressive).

And by next year 360GB sticks will probably cost about ?1.50. Pigeon-feed!

So, look at it this way. For 10 years people have been engaging with the 
net on a "I can't be bothered to engage with the infrastructure or the 
issues, I just want convenience!" approach. And I'm not just talking 
about individuals - governments, too, have taken this approach.

Now the implications of that attitude may be coming back to bite us. If 
we want independence, we have to pay for it - if not with money, then 
with brain-bashing hack time. The "no money, no effort" option is not 
available - but we knew that all along.

So with lack of net neutrality, I say bring it on (you bastards!) and 
watch the community's response. If it's more useful than what you're 
offering, a whole new neutral, undetectable peer-to-peer infrastructure 
WILL emerge!

Best,

James
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