- Jan 2017
- Aug 2016
Video requires a fixed frame rate, so streaming video stalls when its input queue runs dry. To overcome such problems, FCC rules allow special codes that give priority passage for packets of data carrying voice calls or video frames, so that they flow quickly and uniformly through the Internet.
Anyone know which rules these are? They seem to set a dangerous precedent for repackaging packets with video/voice headers to get priority on the network.
- Oct 2015
European Parliament conference on “Internet as a Commons: Public Space in the Digital Age”, organised in cooperation with Commons Network and Heinrich Böll Foundation. Discussing how to re-decentralize and reclaim the Internet for all.
[ Prologue ]
The Internet as a whole has become an important part of our global public sphere. Internet provides access to a wealth of information and knowledge, and the possibility to participate, create and communicate. This public space made up of internet infrastructures is increasingly threatened from two sides; by the centralization and commercialization through the dominant positions held by giant telecom and Internet companies, as well as by an increasing trend in state regulation and censorship of the net. This poses important questions about how we choose to organize and regulate our digital societies, and how Internet governance models can be developed and implemented to ensure fair and democratic participation.
When it comes to the future of the Internet, a key discussion is one of infrastructures; who owns, runs and controls them. The question of regulation, and who oversees the regulators, is made complicated by the transnational nature of the net.
As much as people expect a broadly and equitably accessible Internet open to diversity, we are, slowly but surely, moving away from it. Monopolization of Internet infrastructures and services by companies such as Facebook and Google has gone hand in hand with privacy intrusions, surveillance and the unbounded use of personal data for commercial gain. As we all interact in these centralized commercial platforms that monetize our actions we see an effective enclosure and manipulation of our public spaces. Decentralization and democratization of the Internet infrastructure and activities is essential to keep a free, open and democratic Internet for all to enjoy equitably. But can the “small is beautiful”-idea be compatible with the building of state-of-the-art successful infrastructure in the future?
The debates around net neutrality, infrastructure neutrality and Internet monopolies reflect the important choices that are to be made. It is essential the EU formulates a comprehensive vision on the internet that addresses the protection of civil liberties such as free speech and privacy, but also the growing commercialization of our digital public spaces and the commodification of personal data with the effect of the market encroaching on all aspects of our daily lives. Only then can it make relevant interventions regarding the Internet and its governance.
Let´s discuss how to re-decentralize and reclaim the Internet for all.
[ Introduction ]
Opening remarks from Benkler & Bloemen:
The two major challenges of 21st Century Capitalism are the result of the impact of increasing well-being and welfare throughout the globe. The impact on the natural environment and the social environment.
And while the last forty years has seen a steady struggle to increase understanding of the threat to the natural environment. We've actually seen over the last forty years a retreat in the understanding of the impact on the social environment.
Throughout the industrialised world in particular, we've seen increased inequality and a series of ideas around Neoliberalism, initially finding root in the United States and the United Kingdom, then expanding to liberalisation in Europe and ultimately translating into the Washington consensus as a core development policy.
These were anchored in a set of ideas, we largely think of as Neoliberalism, that argued that uncertainty and complexity makes centralised economic planning impossible, and so prices and decentralised decisions in markets by individuals will produce good information.
They modelled universal rationality as self-interested, self-maximising human behaviour. They understood collective behaviour as always failing, always corrupting into illegitimate power. And that then meant that deregulation and freeing of markets from social and legal controls were the way to increase both welfare and liberty.
What we've seen in the last twenty-five years is that the idea of the Commons is beginning to offer a framework, to respond to these deeply corrosive ideas, and begin to allow us to create frameworks that teach us how we can increase human welfare, improve the human condition, but without undermining the social relations in the way that has been so corrosive for the last forty years.
Three schools of the Commons: The work that came out Elinor Ostrom's work and the Ostrom School, the Global Commons work coming out of the environmental movement, and what's most relevant to us here in today's meeting, is the Internet Commons.
The thing that became clear with the Internet Commons, is that even at the heart of the most advanced economies, at the cutting edge of technology and in the areas of greatest economic growth and innovation, commons are at the very heart.
From the very Internet engineering task force that created the internet protocols, through the World Wide Web, to core infrastructure like spectrum commons like WiFi or software, all the way to this great knowledge facility of Wikipedia.
We've seen commons work, we've seen how they work, we've seen their limitations, we've been able to learn how to make them operate and we continue to learn about them. But from the mentally, they offer existence proof that there is another way.
The past quarter century of commons, both on and offline, has taught us that people can affectively act collectively to govern their own utilisation of resources. They've taught us with many details that people respond to diverse motivations and that economic utility is valuable, but it's only part of a range of social emotional and rational ethical commitments.
Property and markets vs State planning and ownership, don't exhaust the capabilities, we live with a much more diverse set of ways of organising economic production, and in particular voluntaristic actions in commons, can support growth, can support innovation, can be more efficient, while at the same time being sustainable and socially more integrated.
At a higher level of abstraction we have come to understand that production and resource management are socially embedded activities, social embededness is not something from which we need to free markets, it instead something we need to achieve.
Freedom is self-governance, individual and collective, not free choice in the market, and property based market as we saw in copyright and patents, as we saw in a variety of our other areas, can actually undermine freedom in both of these senses.
So what are we to do?
Our experience of Internet Commons tells us, that three major shifts needs to happen before the 21st century capitalism challenge can be answered in a socially sustainable way.
We need to increase our use of peer cooperativism. Taking the experience we've garnered over the last fifteen years with commons based peer production and translating into a way that expanded to ever larger propositions of provisioning, so that it can provide a practical anchor and a normative anchor to material production in the market.
We also cannot give up on socially embedded market production, there is no one right path to market production, there is genuine room for ethical choice, not only on the environmental side, not only on the rights side in terms of human rights, but also on the side of economic equality and social sustainability.
And finally, we need to turn our political understanding to one that has peer pragmatism, that understands the limitations of the traditional State, while it also understands the limitations of the Market. That builds on our experience in self-governing communities like Wikipedia, with the overlapping and nested relationship, with the distinct continued ethical commitment of Citizens to their practices. With continuous challenging, but also with distribution of power to much more local bases, to form a new political theory- based in our commons based practices, of our relations as Citizens and the State.
So however important a particular part of the Internet Commons may be from a practical level, at the level of ideas, our experience in Internet Commons over the last quarter of the century, is beginning to teach us how to shape Capitalism for the 21st Century, so that is not only sustainable from the natural environment perspective, but that it is also embedded and supportive of it's social environment.
The Commons is a perspective that looks at stewardship, equitable access and sustainability, and it looks at the collective good beyond individual rights exclusively. So instead of conceiving of Society as a collection of atomised individuals, principally living as consumers, Commons points to the reality of people's lives being deeply embedded in social relationships- communities, histories, traditions.
So this perspective is very helpful when conceiving of the Internet as a public space, as a common good, and how we might want to organise this public space. What kind of infrastructure is provided and who controls the infrastructure. This is what it insists on, on the protection of the Internet as a public space, accessible to everyone. So just like a bridge or street, it's an infrastructure, and it must be controlled and managed in the interests of Citizens.
The central issue of the debate on net neutrality, has also been will it be continue to be managed as a mixed use of commons, or will discriminatory tiers of service transform the internet to a predominately commercial system, for production and distribution.
So the key questions are: Who controls the infrastructure? What are the terms and conditions under which the public gets access? and this has far reaching implications for our society.
The domination of the Internet by several large actors raises important policy questions, about how to manage it. The thwarting of net neutrality rules in Europe just suggests just how vulnerable the open internet really is and it's therefore necessary for policy makers to have a real vision that acknowledges the gravity of these issues.
It was reading professor Benkler's book 'Wealth of Networks' years ago, that give me enlightened research, key insights, why we are and how we are living in a time of deep economic change, change of the modes of production, due to digital technologies, and what the role of social peer production can be, might be.
But also, that it's not a given in which direction we will go. It's not pre-determined, we have to give it a certain shape.
What he also alluded to now is that, our institutional frameworks to a certain extent, reflect outdated conceptions of human agency. The idea of the rational individual who is just out there to increase his material gain through rational calculation. We create and we share because of curiosity, because of social connectedness, because of psychological well-being, there is an element of cooperation and human reciprocity there as well.
So this human capability has really been shown or has really been brought out by the Internet, by digital technology, but it's also taking place, these forms of cooperation and collective action, are also taking shape offline; lots of commoning initiatives, community gardening, co-housing, ethical financing.
So to go back to these institutional frameworks, how can we as professor Benkler said, he named these three things, how can we increase the use of peer cooperativism, and how can we make sure there's a shift towards socially embedded market productions where there's self-governance as well, which is community based. The third point he made is to enhance the political understanding of these commons based practices that are beyond the Market and beyond the State, and I guess that's partly what we're doing here, enhancing this political understanding.
So how do we need to tweak the institutional frameworks, what do we have to take away, what do we have to add? and that's also why in the analysis in our paper 'A Commons Perspective on European Knowledge Policy' we discuss this and we talk about copyright legislation and net neutrality and european positions at the world intellectual property organisation, which are all relevant to this.
What kind of sharing economy do we want, do we want a democratised one where we empower everyone to be a producer, or are most of us still consumers in this economy. Are we producers just in the sense that we share our data, and all our actions online and offline are commodified, we pay with our privacy to be part of it.
So in order to get a good grip on where we should go, how to go ahead, we should take a step back. Take a step back and see what kind of society we would like.
And a key question is: How can we create a structural environment that enables society to fully reap the benefits of knowledge sharing and collaborative production, in a way that's also socially sustainable?
And what could the role of EU be? At this moment, the European parliament is considering a new copyright framework, there's a digital single market strategy, there's the data regulations, lots of things going on. So the next panels will set out some big ideas, and will also give some very practical examples of people engaging with building these peer to peer networks or other initiatives, that will make more concrete what we are talking about.