So Long, Highway
by John December
But an information superhighway never materialized. What happened was a grass-roots acceptance of the Internet. People have chosen to use the Internet, not because of a government program but because they can communicate with other people using it. The numbers of Internet users has risen to as high as 50 million according to some present estimates (CyberAtlas). Bill Clinton has seen this opportunity and has decided to get in front of it.
It wasn't always this way. In just the past year, Clinton deliberately attacked free speech and the Internet in his Communications Decency Act (CDA). The CDA was never about communications or decency, but about political control. To be able to monitor and regulate speech means that you control the medium. To control the medium means that you can regulate it. And tax it.
Now, Clinton realizes that embracing a growing medium means that you can, to some extent, gradually and subtly, co-opt power over it. Aside from government cheerleading, there are grants, advocacy, and government programs. Academics smell money. Politicians smell a potentially lucrative tax source. Opportunists see a juggernaut hype machine, ready for a host of stupid schemes.
But this sickening embrace of the Net does not bode well. I'm very concerned about the unstated assumption of the Clinton Internet policies. Intertwined in these policies is the idea that the United States government (or G7, or "Group of Eight") has world-wide jurisdiction over this global network. I'm very concerned that further government involvement with the Net will quickly lead to taxation, more demands for regulation of speech and content, and a gradual co-opting of human communication and relationships into the framework of "commerce."
It need not be so.
Copyright © 1997 by John December. All Rights Reserved.